‘Outlander’ Recap/Review: Episode 110, “By the Pricking of My Thumbs”

Official Episode 110 Claire Jamie
[This is not a spoiler-free review/recap of the episode. If you have not seen the episode yet, read it at your own spoiler risk.]

Episode 110,“By the Pricking of My Thumbs,” Written by Ira Steven Behr, Directed by Richard Clark

Recap: Claire rouses from her slumber to the pleasure of Jamie’s head between her legs. A knock sounds at the door, but Jamie refuses to stop. The knocking continues until Jamie finally gives in and opens to door to Murtagh, who enters and chastises Jamie for allowing his marriage duties to make him sluggish. Spotting Claire still in bed, Murtagh halts his teasing and informs Jamie of the Duke of Sandringham’s arrival. Jamie is excited by the news, knowing that the Duke has always been partial to him and maybe instrumental in lifting the charges against him. Claire reveals she is familar with the Duke, but makes Jamie and Murtagh promise not to press her on how she knows about the Duke. Jamie assumes she is referring to the Duke’s “fondness for other men,” but she surprises them both by revealing the Duke has connections to Black Jack Randall. In light of Claire’s information, Murtagh believes it is best to confer with Ned Gowan before going to see the Duke. Jamie agrees with Murtagh and turns to Claire, excited by the opportunity to clear his name and return home to Lallybroch, where he believes they will truly be happy.

Murtagh and Jamie meet with Ned, who informs Jamie there is much to overcome in order to clear his name since it would be his word against that of a British officer. However, Ned believes they can use the Duke’s connection to Captain Randall to their advantage and suggests drawing up a petition of complainant accusing Black Jack of crimes against the Scottish people, including Claire. If Jamie can convince the Duke to deliver the document to the Lord President of the Court, Randall could face a court martial, or at the very least, be reassigned from Scotland. With the Captain in disgrace, Ned could take Jamie’s case to court and win him a pardon.

Claire heads to the kitchen, where she finds Laoghaire presenting her grandmother, Mrs. Fitz, a new apron. Claire asks to speak to Laoghaire alone and Mrs. Fitz agrees, excusing herself and the other women from the kitchen. Once alone, Claire produces the ill-wish she found under her bed and asks Laoghaire if it looks familiar. When the girl does not readily admit to being the culprit, Claire softens a bit and acknowledges Laoghaire’s feelings for Jamie and why she would direct her jealously at Claire. She also reassures Laoghaire there was no conspiracy to take Jamie from her, although he was not hers to begin with. Laoghaire is stirred by Claire’s words, proclaiming Jamie to be hers and that Claire stole him away. She continues her verbal rampage, telling Claire she feels sorry for Jamie because he is married to a “cold English bitch.” Claire reaches her limit and slaps Laoghaire, but quickly apologizes for doing so. The girl finally admits to placing the ill-wish under the bed in an attempt to make Jamie hate Claire as much as she does and also shocks her by revealing it was Geillis who sold it to Laoghaire. Claire leaves the kitchen, but not before warning Laoghaire to stay away from her and Jamie.

Claire heads to the Duncan’s, but does not find Geillis, only Arthur sifting through his wife’s remedies looking for some relief from his stomach troubles. Claire grabs some fennel from another table and hands it to the maid to give to Arthur. As Claire turns to leave, the maid stops her and informs her of where she can find Geillis in the woods.

Sometime later, Claire traipses through the woods, guided by the light of a lantern. She hears a voice in the distance and blows out her light before moving closer. Claire spots Geillis, who is clothed only in a flowing piece of fabric, as she dances around a fire while chanting. Claire recalls the dance of the Druids she witnessed with Frank at Craig na Dun as Geillis writhes around, tearing the cloth from her chest, and holds her visibly pregnant stomach. She finally collapses to the ground and calls out for Claire to come out from her hiding spot. Claire approaches Geillis, offering her congratulations on her friend’s pregnancy. Geillis thanks her, calling it a “special secret,” one that even Arthur does not know. Claire wonders how that could be and Geillis reveals she has a lover and names Dougal MacKenzie as her child’s father. She also reveals the ritual Claire witnessed was her calling on Mother Nature, asking for her and Dougal’s freedom. Claire agrees to keep the baby and what she witnessed a secret, understanding the severity of Geillis’ situation.

The pair make their way back through the woods as daylight approaches and Geillis promises Clarie she had no idea the ill-wish she gave Laoghaire was meant for her. Geillis also shows off a lovely pearl bracelet she recieved from Dougal, which was actually given to him by the Duke of Sandringham and meant for his wife Maura. Claire is surprised to hear Dougal is married and learns his wife has been secluded at their estate for years. Claire wonders how Dougal came to receive a gift from the Duke since he is there visiting Colum and Geillis informs her that it is really Dougal he is fond of. Her words spark a memory of Claire listening to Frank and the Reverend Wakefield discussing, not only Captain Randall’s connection to the Duke, but also the Duke being a suspected Jacobite. Claire’s attention is soon drawn by the cry of a baby in the distance, but Geillis stops her as she tries to move towards it. They are standing near a fairy hill and the child is suspected of being a changeling, which is left in place of a baby that is stolen away and is known because it does not thrive or grow. Claire dismisses Geillis’ words as “superstitious nonsense” and makes her way towards the child, away from Geillis who will not interfere.

Claire scours the woods for the child and finds it nestled in a tree, but she is too late and the baby has already passed on. She lifts the child, and cradling it to her chest, sits next to the tree, repeating her apologies to the baby. Claire remains unmoved for sometime until Jamie arrives, directed to his wife by Geillis. Kneeling beside her, Jamie commends Claire on her kind heart, but echoes Geillis’ warnings of her not needing to interfere. Taking the baby from Claire, Jamie returns it to the tree as she wonders if he too believes in fairies and all that other nonsense. Jamie tries to explain to her that it is not about him, but about the comfort it may bring the parents to believe it is a changeling that died and that their own baby is alive and living among the fairies. Claire nods in acknowledgement and asks Jamie to take her home.

Back at Castle Leoch, Claire looks over the document Ned has prepared to pass along to the Duke as Jamie explains its contents. Claire hesitates to sign, but eventually takes the quill and signs “Claire Elizabeth Fraser” beneath her husband’s name.

Claire, unaware to Jamie, secures an audience with the Duke, who is baffled by the notion of a complaint against Captain Randall and asks to see the “abominable document.” Claire cannot produce it since she does not have it and informs the Duke of Jamie’s upcoming visit, document in hand. The Duke seats himself across from Claire and tells her that though he is quite fond of Jamie, he must refuse their proposal. Claire, not easily dissuaded, acknowledges that it is not an easy task to turn against a friend, but the Duke is quick to dismiss the notion that he is close to Captain Randall, claiming he hardly knows him. The Duke tries to dismiss Claire several times without success, but she eventually relents, but not before asking the Duke one last question: “How much Jacobite gold did Dougal MacKenzie pass along to you?” After a rather poetic, but threatening observation about Claire’s neck, the Duke concedes and agrees to hear Jamie’s grievances as the pair toast to “petitions of complaint.”

Claire returns to Castle Leoch as Angus and Rupert bring her news of the death of Dougals wife and his subsequent drunken rage. Wondering how she may help, Rupert informs her that Colum wishes her to soothe him with a sedative. Claire arrives in the hall and joins Colum, Ned, and the others to witnesses Dougal brandishing his sword and screaming for those advancing on him to stay back. Angus moves from the group to retrieve a bottle of alcohol to pour the sedative into, but is momentarily stopped by the threat of Dougal’s sword pointed in his direction. Dougal eventually lets Angus pass and he continues his walk back to Claire, who slips the sedative into the bottle before handing it back off to Angus. Dougal’s rage flares up again and is once more on the attack until Angus steps forward and raises the bottle to “the fair Maura.” His words pacify Dougal, who takes the bottle and downs a fair amount of drink. Dougal begins to feel the effects of the sedative after another long swig and struggles to keep his balance before collapsing on the ground. Claire rushes over to check on him and Ned tells the other men not to leave Dougal sprawled out on the ground. They gather around Dougal, lift him up, and begin to carry him from the hall. Before taking his leave, Colum commands them to watch over Dougal, who will be dealt with when he sobers.

In the courtyard, Claire runs into Geillis, who wonders if Claire has heard the news about Dougal’s wife. Geillis is in a celebratory mood, believing her summoning worked, allowing her and Dougal to be together. Claire is skeptical, not only that Maura’s untimely passing had anything to do with the summoning she witnessed in the woods, but also because Geillis is still married to Arthur. At this, Geillis simply glances at Claire and with a gentle, but suspicious “humph” takes her leave.

Jamie and Murtagh arrive at Millwood House to see the Duke as members of the MacDonald clan are leaving. The Duke, now seated in the chair Claire occupied during her visit, peruses the petition drawn up by Ned as Jamie and Murtagh stand before him. Putting down the paper, the Duke muses that he had no idea his acquaintance with Randall was such common knowledge and Murtagh assures him that, not only are they aware of it, but that there is no doubt it is also whispered at “your majesty’s” court. The Duke quickly corrects that is is their majesty’s court and commands his note taker to leave the room. When the three are left alone, the Duke damns Captain Randall for making the cover up of his misdeeds a full time occupation. He agrees to help Jamie, but they must proceed with caution so that the Duke does not harm himself along with Captain Randall. Pulling Jamie aside, the Duke asks for his favor to be returned in kind and reveals he was challenged to a duel by Andrew MacDonald for an unpaid debt. Although he knows there is tension between the two clans, he wants Jamie to act as his second, assuring him that is is an “affair of honor” with shots exchanged, but no harm to the combatants.

As Jamie and Murtagh prepare to leave, Murtagh warns Jamie to stay out of the Duke’s affairs, but Jamie throws it in his companion’s face that it was Murtagh’s idea to go to the Duke. He also knows that he cannot back out and lose his chance to go home. When Murtagh cannot swear to another opportunity to clear his name arising in the near future, Jamie tells him that this is a risk he must take.

A celebration begins at Castle Leoch with the Duke standing with Colum and Dougal overlooking the hall. Claire and Jamie enter and keep to the side as bagpipes begin to play and a large, beautifully decorated meat pie is escorted into the hall and placed in front of the Duke. Colum offers a dagger to his guest, who makes the first ceremonial cut, which is met with applause from the crowd. Colum raises a glass to the Duke and also toasts to Scotland and the king, to which the Duke has a subdued reaction to. The feast commences and Jamie brings Claire over to meet the Duke, unaware of their earlier meeting. The pair play along until Claire sends Jamie to fetch her a drink and quickly turns on the Duke, calling him a bastard for involving Jamie in his duel, threatening him should anything happen to Jamie. The Duke commends her for her concern, but reminds Claire that he will be in the line of fire and, should anything happen to him, their petition will never reach London. With a smile and slight bow of the head, he leaves Claire to take his place between Colum and Dougal at the table.

Geillis is also in attendance at the celebration and seated with her husband Arthur. The man appears to be in distress, rising from his seat before collapsing in the middle of the hall. A woman cries out, drawing Claire’s attention. She and others rush to Arthur’s side as he begins to foam at the mouth. Believing him to be choking, Claire calls for him to be turned on his side, but it is to no avail. Claire looks about for Geillis, whose attention is on Dougal, who wears the slightest of smiles on his face. Colum turns to his brother and notices his gaze is fixed on Geillis, who finally breaks the silence with her screams and runs towards Arthur. It is in that moment Claire notices the smell of bitter almonds coming from Arthur, which she recognizes as a scent associated with cynaide, and realizes what has killed Arthur. Claire rises from her spot beside the body and goes to Jamie’s side as Geillis continues to cry over her husband.

A new day emerges and Jamie joins the Duke at his residence for the duel with Andrew MacDonald. Jamie stands back to back with another MacDonald and the two are instructed to walk five paces away from each other and mark their spots with swords. The Duke and Andrew MacDonald take their places and fire upon each other at the drop of a handkerchief. The Duke extends an apology to MacDonald, who accepts, but his sons do not keep their displeasure about the matter to themselves. Jamie calls for the MacDonald boys to hold their tongues and their father wishes them to do the same. They do not heed their father’s warnings and continue to hurl insults at Jamie and the Duke as the two parties go their seperate ways. Jamie retaliates and their verbal spar turns to actual violence with Jamie’s suggestion that the MacDonalds only “learn of love by rutting with their mothers.” The MacDonald boys attack Jamie, stabbing him in the side, but he is able to render each one immobile before falling to the ground himself. The Duke approaches Jamie, but offers no assistance and implores him to tell Claire his injuries are not the Duke’s fault. The Duke retrieves the petition of complaint from Jamie’s person and leaves him wounded in the field with Andrew MacDonald and his injured sons.

Claire tends to Jamie’s wounds in her surgery, but offers nothing more than a stern glance to her husband. He tries to reassure her that it is nothing worth brooding over and that there is cause for celebration since the Duke did take the petition. Claire begins to stitch the wound, torturing Jamie with her “quiet anger” rather than her usual vocalization of displeasure. Claire finishes her work as Ned arrives and informs Jamie the Laird wishes to see him.

Ned and Jamie enter Colum’s chambers as he is telling Dougal to leave Leoch and return home to tend to his wife’s funeral. Dougal realizes he is being exiled by Colum, but asserts he will not spurn Geillis with his absence and admits she is carrying his child, but Colum has no sympathy for his brother. Angus, Rupert, and Jamie are also to leave Leoch with Dougal, a command that does not sit well with Jamie. He moves to speak, but is silenced by his uncle’s wrath. After forcing a nod of acknowledgement from Dougal about his exhile, Colum turns on Jamie for his fight with the MacDonalds, even though Jamie had no wish to fight them and was only there at the Duke’s request. He also apologizes for disrespecting his uncle and informs Colum that he will soon no longer be a burden as he is hopeful he will soon return home to Lallybroch. Colum squelches Jamie’s notion of returning home until he has been given permission and is to stay close to Dougal and make sure Colum’s order are obeyed, which will be aided by Claire remaining at Leoch without Jamie. Another argument brews from Jamie, but Colum threatens him should he speak out of turn again.

Claire joins Jamie as he prepares his horse for departure and voices her concerns about him traveling with an open wound. Jamie tries to elevate some worry with humor, claiming she is sending him off with enough bandages to cover him from face to feet. He also advises Claire to stay clear of Geillis, since she no longer has her husband or Dougal to nullify Colum’s wrath. Dougal interrupts their goodbyes, wishing to be on the road and away from his brother. Jamie and Claire kiss and she implores him to return to her as soon as he can. With one final kiss placed upon her forehead, Jamie mounts his horse and rides off with Dougal as Claire looks on.

Sometime later, Claire sits with Mrs. Fitz in the kitchen, tending to another one of her burns. Mrs. Fitz tries to cheer Claire up, noting that the separation is not permanent and Jamie will soon be back in Colum’s good graces and Claire’s arms. Claire thanks Mrs. Fitz for her kindness as Tammas enters the room and delivers a letter to Claire, which contains a simple message from Geillis, asking her to “come quick.” Wasting no time, Claire travels to the village and is admitted to Geillis’ house by the maid. Geillis is surprised to see Claire and informs her that she did not send the note, but invites Claire to stay for dinner. Claire is not amused by the supposed prank and implores Geillis to pack her things and leave the village, but she refuses. Claire makes another attempt to get her friend to leave by telling Geillis she knows about the poison she gave to Arthur and that she is not the only one aware of the misdeed. Still not moved to action, Geillis is thankful for the concern, but not worried, even as a loud knock sounds at the door with the warden demanding entrance. Geillis disposes of the bottle in Calire’s hand in the fire (presumably the poison) and allows the maid to admit the men at the door, believing Dougal will let no harm come to her or their child. The warden enters the room and quickly restrains Geillis and arrests her for witchcraft. Claire advances, but is stopped by a second man and also placed under arrest. The two women are dragged from the house and placed in the jail cart. Claire peers out the window to see Laoghaire reveal herself and look on with a self-satisfied smile as Claire is carted away.

Review: It has been some time since Outlander introduced viewers to a new character and the Duke of Sandringham is a welcomed addition, even if it is just a momentary one. Mentioned only in conversation between Frank and Reverend Wakefield and again between Claire and Black Jack, the Duke had a bit of a reputation to live up to and Simon Callow does not disappoint with his performance. In a role that could have gone the way of Father Bain and Arthur Duncan in being too over the top, Callow is simply delightful, crafting a memorable performance with elements of charm, wit, and a hint of wickedness. Perhaps the best example of this when he says to Claire, “Anyone ever told you you have the most gorgeous neck? Holds your head so prettily. I’d hate to see them parted.” Charm and chills in one fell swoop.

Two highlights of the episode are not big moments, rather small character ones. When Claire returns to Castle Leoch and learns of Maura’s passing from Rupert and Angus, Rupert sports a nasty head wound and, in the midst of their conversation, Claire takes a moment to examine it without missing a beat. It does not seem like much, but it is a moment that has stuck with me and shows the growth in their realtionship. Another fantastic moment comes courtesy of the Duke as he implores Jamie to make sure Claire knows he is not to blame for her husband’s injuries. It is just a simple line, but a fantastic and hilarious call back to the Duke and Claire’s “quid pro quo” threats from the night of the feast. Claire has clearly made an impression on the Duke, as she has with everyone else, and he actually believes capable of following through on a threat.

It seems pointless to continue to harp on the show’s use of narration, but this episode is a prime example of its waning effectiveness. Clarie’s voice does not creep in until the 18 minute mark, and even then it only draws the viewer to a flashback that was recently used in “Both Sides Now” (it does play a little longer here to include the Duke being a suspected Jacobite). Claire’s narration about Arthur’s death is more forgivable, but as the show broadens its view with more and more scenes without Claire, the narration once again feels intrusive and unnecessary.

As wonderful as parts of this episode were, I am still hesitant to claim Outlander is at the height it reached during the first eight episodes. “By the Pricking of My Thumbs” feels like a grocery list episode, packing in a great number of elements from Gabaldon’s novel (the revelation of Geillis and Dougal’s relationship, the resulting baby, Arthur’s death, the Duke, the changeling, etc.), solely to reach the next large set piece in a timely manner. While the streamlined proceedings are understandable for the adaptation, it also removes some of the mystery surrounding Dougal’s indiscretions and Laoghaire’s misdeeds. You will find little sympathy for Laoghaire from this viewer, but in making her motivations obvious she becomes an even more unlikable character whose screen time is more annoying than enjoyable (although I do appreciate her continuing the MacKenzie tradition of agricultural themed sexual innuendos). None of this is to say Outlander does not continue to entertain or deliver fantastic performances, but when compared to previous episodes, the second half of season one definitely has some catching up to do.