Outlander S03E07 “Crème de Menthe” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Amazon Prime Instant Video
Writer: Karen Campbell
Director: Norma Bailey
Essential Plot Points:
- Claire manages to fend off the attacker in Jamie’s room. He falls and cracks his head on the stone hearth.
- Jamie arrives back at the room to find Claire trying to save the man’s life. He identifies him as an employee of dodgy excise official Sir Percival, and reckons Claire should let him die. Claire, though, is driven by her Hippocratic Oath.
- Realising having a dead exciseman on the premises where he stores his contraband booze is a bad idea, Jamie orders Fergus and Young Ian to remove and sell all the alcohol immediately.
- Claire goes to an apothecary to fetch some medicines but is stuck in a queue behind a guy, Archibald Campbell, taking forever trying to decide what to buy his ailing sister. Claire agrees to pop by his house later to treat his sister if he lets her queue jump.
- Ultimately it’s pointless as Claire fails to save the exciseman, but she does impress Yi Tien Cho, who’s fascinated when she drills a hole in the guy’s skull in an attempt to relieve pressure.
- Jamie hides the exciseman’s body in a cask of crème de menthe because no Scotsman drinks crème de menthe, so it’ll be a while before the body is discovered.
- Claire visits Archibald and his sister Margaret. She is mentally ill and rants; she’s been doing this since she was a child, and Archibald markets her as a “seer”, with him interpreting her rants for their clients.
- He reveals he’s after something that will reduce her ranting while on a voyage to the West Indies, at the behest of a wealthy client. Claire is clearly unimpressed with how Archibald exploits his sister but tells him to lay off the laudanum, and treat her with herbal tea instead.
- Claire returns to Jamie. Claire says she wants to start her own surgery.
- Murray turns up looking for his son (and stunned to find Claire alive).
- Claire is horrified to hear Jamie lying that he hasn’t seen Young Ian. When Old Ian leaves, Claire and Jamie argue about degrees of lying. (Jamie has his own agenda here, as we’ll learn at the end of the episode when Fergus admonishes him for not telling Claire about his “other” wife.)
- Fergus gives Young Ian some dating tips. They work. Young Ian pulls a barmaid and returns to the printing shop, where he has a bed.
- But the couple are followed by Sir Percival’s one-eyed henchman. He sneaks into the Jamie’s printing shop looking for alcohol. Instead he finds the seditious pamphlets Jamie has been printing.
- Mid-coitus, Young Ian hears the guy ransacking the premises. He pulls up his trews and challenges the guy. In the ensuing fight, they start a fire. The one-eyed guy escapes with some of the pamphlets.
- Jamie arrives and rescues Young Ian from the flames then watches as his livelihood burns.
- Jamie urges Fergus to find the one-eyed man and retrieve the pamphlets. But just in case, he decides to hotfoot it back to Lallybroch with Claire and Young Ian in the hope that Sir Percival won’t be able to trace him there…
- But what about that other wife, eh?
Ah well, we all knew that Claire and Jamie in a state of love-up bliss was a bubble waiting to burst. This week it’s back to business as usual – Claire and Jamie bickering. This time, for a change, it’s Jamie who’s looking very wobbly on his moral high horse. His attempts to justify his resistance to Claire’s attempts to make twentieth century man out of him are flimsy indeed, but he’s clearly going for an “attack is the best form of defence” strategy. Y’see, there’s something the big Scottish lug really ought to mention that he’s proving a big wuss about mentioning. The other wife.
You probably guessed something like this was coming. Jamie may have been telling the truth last week when he said he’d never loved anyone else, but that didn’t mean there couldn’t have been other relationships. Who knows what he’s entered into for convenience or business or prudence or sympathy? (Okay, Outlander books reader will know, but let’s assume you’re learning at TV pace.) Something had to come along to test their relationship again.
Not that Mrs Fraser (or, perhaps, Mrs Malcolm) is the only obstacle to their ongoing happiness. Claire’s arrival coincides with the authorities starting to close in Jamie’s illegal activities. Claire killing an exciseman isn’t going to help matters. So by the end of the episode, Jamie’s livelihood has gone up in flames, his seditious activities have been discovered and he’s being forced to flee back to Lallybroch.
Then we get the misadventures of Fergus and Young Ian, as the worldly-wise Frenchman gives the furrow-browed Scots some hilarious lessons in love. And they work! Quick learner, that Ian. That, or he was lucky enough to find a woman who finds rabbits caught in headlights sexy. This whole plotline is a delight to watch, and you can’t help thinking that Fergus and Young Ian would indeed make great business partners – as Fergus suggests – except that as soon as the words are out of his mouth you know the dream is doomed. Young Ian’s nocturnal frolics are soon interrupted by Sir Percival’s boot boy rifling through Jamie’s belongings. Quite why the one-eyed guy had to follow Ian home when presumably he knew where the printer’s was located is unclear; perhaps he hoped that Ian would forget to lock the door in his state of carnal lust…
Add in Claire’s bizarre but intriguing visit to the Archibalds (that’s clearly not the last we’ve seen of them) and a bit of 18th century ER, and it all adds up to a solidly entertaining episode of Outlander that plays to the show’s strengths.
- Young Ian’s adorable “coming” of age story was huge fun, from his initial, gormless look of love (above) to his first fumbling attempts at sex.
- Young Ian: “I’ve been meaning to ask ye. Does French brandy really increase the firmness of the cock staff?”
Fergus: “Well, in my experience, the result is quite the opposite. But all that matters is that I convince the buyers that it does.”
- Fergus: “A menage a trois.”
Young Ian: “A what?”
Fergus: “Two women and one moi.”
- Fergus: “The art of seduction can be mastered thus. First, you must look into her eyes and tell her how beautiful she is. Second, offer her a drink. Whatever her heart desires.”
Young Ian: “Simple enough.”
Fergus: “And the piece de resistance, is perhaps the most important part.”
Young Ian: “What is it?”
Fergus: “Repeat one and two.”
- Jamie pretending to have the moral high ground in the argument about lying when all he’s really trying to do is prepare the ground for his own jawdropper that’s he’s going to have to deliver pretty soon. It’s deliciously awkward.
- And linked to that, Clare actually having the moral high ground in that argument, but not coming across as holier than thou for once – we’re actually 100 per cent with her on this one.
- Trepanning! There’s just not enough trepanning on TV.
- And after taking the mick out of the Foley artist last week for the noisiest buttons in the world, hats off to the foley artist this week for the sound effects during the trapanning sequence – all that squeaking-of-drill and crunching-of-bone was truly toe-curling.
- The image of Jamie watching his livelihood burn was a beauty.
- Okay, we’re warming to César Domboy as Fergus (the script works really hard to make him come across as an adult version of the cheeky chappie we first met) but he’s still a bit too “boy band” pretty and not quite the charming rogue we’d like to see.
- Jamie’s slow-motion superhero leap into the fire to save Young Ian is just a little cheesy.
- We wish Archibald Campbell had translated his sister’s ranting to Claire – okay, he’d probably have just made up some rubbish, but we’d still like to have heard it.
- It’a a little odd that we see Fergus and Young Ian offload the casks of crème de menthe onto the merchant before the exciseman has died. Of course, Jamie may well have hidden the body in a different cask of crème de menthe but considering that the alcohol was cleared out of the brothel cellar before Sir Percival and his one-eyed henchman arrived, and Jamie only learned the exciseman was dead after they’d left, something feel off. Like there’s a scene missing that explains the apparent anomaly. Or maybe the episode was re-edited at some point for pace?
- Those pamphlets weren’t particularly well hidden, were they, considering Jamie’s confidence they wouldn’t be discovered.
And The Random:
- This week’s vignette to go with the episode title and the writer & director credits may just be foreshadowing the fire, but may also be a visual metaphor for Ian at one point during the episode (fnarr, fnarrr).
- Harry Tompkins, the one-(wandering)-eyed excise hard man, is played by Ian Reddington. From 1992 to 1993 he played dodgy Walford market inspector Richard Cole in 88 episodes of EastEnders, then crossed the soap divide to play Liz McDonald’s second husband Vernon Tomlin in 235 episodes of Coronation Street (2005-2008). But before that made his mark on cult TV playing a very, very creepy clown in one the best Sylvester McCoy Doctor Who stories “The Greatest Show In The Galaxy” (1988 – for more creepy clowns see here).
- “You have some whisky?” Claire asks a Scottish alcohol smuggler in a brothel. Well, duh!
Review by Dave Golder