Claire Beauchamp Randall is a woman who fixes things, solves problems, and helps people even when that help makes things worse for herself.
She has become the castle’s physick, using herbs and berries to cure the sick and injured. She saves Tammas’ life and she helps the young tanner's boy get away from the pillory without permanent damage to his ear. All of which garner her at least the beginnings of a level of respect from those in the castle and the village. Unfortunately, however, she is making herself so indispensable that those in charge will not be inclined to let her leave.
Claire is currently in the 18th century, a time when women were little more than property. She is not meant to be facing off against the men, not meant to be doing things on her terms. She is meant to be doing what she is told.
Yet, as the flashback shows us, she is accustomed to doing things “backwards.” It is she who goes to the front lines while Frank stays behind and it is she who is much more comfortable at their being separated than he. He is willing to pull strings to keep them together; she won’t let him. There is part of Frank that feels as though Claire should listen to him, simply because he is the man, "please listen to reason, if not your husband." She doesn't listen and Frank tells her that her "stubbornness is what I find so attractive about you." Interesting choice of words; he doesn't tell her that he loves that quality in her.
The men in Claire’s current time also attempt to get her to do what they want, but they witness this same stubbornness. Colum tries to intimidate her by baring his backside; Claire couldn’t be less phased. Dougal is still issuing veiled threats; Claire responds with confidence and walks away from him. Claire is aware of her position, aware that these two men control a great deal about her life right now. She will not, however, give in to that control and refuses to feel threatened by them.
The one man whom I suspect is a real threat is Father Bain. When he tells her that he will find a way for God to win, I believe him. This is a man who will not allow a woman, someone who should be beaten on a daily basis to keep her in line, defeat him at his own game.
Of course there is one man who is intrigued by Claire and is willing to accept her for who she is. She tells Jamie that she’s in charge; his response is that he never doubted it. Unlike all the other men we have met, including Frank, Jamie is the one who doesn’t feel less of a man because of the woman Claire is. As a result, he is more of a man in Claire’s eyes, and ours.
Jamie is completely oblivious to Laoghaire, even with Claire’s trying to be her wingman (wingwoman?). He may be making out with the younger woman, but it is the older woman whom he can’t take his eyes off, even when he is kissing another. Claire is not immune. She tells us that she is jealous of Laoghaire, not because she is kissing Jamie but because Claire misses the intimacy she had with Frank. I’m sure, on one level, she does. But, Claire is drawn to Jamie and clearly trusts him more than anyone else at the castle.
Claire and Jamie are beginning to touch each other, often. She elbows him when he inadvertently offends Laoghaire; he puts his foot on hers under the table; changing his dressing is a great excuse for Claire to undress Jamie. I love this moment. His face is a study. I imagine him thinking about anything else just to avoid proving to her how much her touch excites him.
They make a great team, both when they are exploring the Black Kirk and when they rescue the tanner’s boy. They talk to each other easily; they work together to solve the problem; they can tease the other without crossing any boundaries.
Their attraction has been noticed, at least by Murtagh who calls Claire on it. He knows who Jamie wants and he will not sit by and allow this Sassenach wench to make a fool of his clansman. Claire knows she’s gone too far.
For all of her helping others, however, Claire is still alone with no one to help her. She wants to confide in someone, yet knows that in a time when people believed in demon possession and black churches, her story will brand her with any one of a myriad of terms best avoided.
In spite of the fact that Claire comes to understand that she can’t confide in Mrs. Fitz, is is the housekeeper who allows Claire to be the woman she is. She strongly encourages Claire’s taking over the surgery and it is she who stands up to the priest in a scene that had me cheering.
The other woman who grows more fascinating is Geillis. She is manipulative; she is highly intelligent; she, too, is a healer and a fixer. She is obviously aware that Claire has secrets and she tries more than once to get Claire to tell her what they are. But, right now, Claire is still unwilling to trust, unwilling to accept help. She is still finding her way.
We’re three for three. Four out of four glasses of rhenish that lead to flirting in the surgery.
Bits and Pieces:
— I want to avoid spoilers for those who have not read the book. To discuss differences between the book and the show, foreshadowing, or anything else that might spoil the story, head over to my review of the novel.
— There has been a fair amount of chatter on the internet about how difficult the Scottish accent is to follow. It helps to turn on the closed captioning. It is exceptionally well done.
— The ultimate irony in all this loneliness is that Claire is never alone. From Mrs. Fitz helping her bathe to Rupert following her every move, she always has company.
— Colum, while all civility on the surface, has a dark side. His interaction with the tailor showed us just how frightening he can be if crossed.
— Claire is drinking, a lot. She is drunk when she talks to Jamie in the surgery and she only leaves her room at the end of the episode because she wants more of Colum’s booze.
Colum: “What, you don’t have demons in Oxfordshire, Mistress?”
Claire: “We do, but we call them Scots.”
Dougal: “Seems that the feral cat we picked up on the road is trying to pull in her claws.”
Claire: “What a charming description.”
Jamie: “You seem to have a knack for letting me know you feel sorry for it without making me feel pitiful about it.”
Mrs. Fitz: “This is my sister’s house and my father’s before that and we’ll decide what is done under its roof. Tend to the boy.”
Father Bain: “Satan may like to make a fool of God, but God will have the last word. I promise you that.”
Claire: “She came back through the stones?”
Jamie: “Aye, she did. They always do.”
Joined again by Terry Dresbach, this podcast has an interesting section during which Moore discusses the differences between filming a pilot and filming a show that has gone to series. Otherwise, there are long pauses as both Moore and Dresbach watch the episode along with us.
ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.