Outlander: Useful Occupations and Deceptions

"The key is the key."

While the previous episode at Versailles was exciting and visually stunning, "Useful Occupations and Deceptions" was a clever character piece that brought us back to who Claire and Jamie really are.

Jamie was exhausting himself trying to save Scotland while running his cousin's business, and finding his association with the deceptive Bonnie Prince Charlie particularly frustrating. Was the Prince lying about how much money he's raised? Will the King of France end up backing him after all?

Tired and discouraged after many evenings at Madame Elise's, Jamie noticed a young boy employed at the brothel skillfully pocketing coins, and hit upon a plan: recruit the boy to steal correspondence from the Prince so that they can copy and replace it before it is missed. A clever plan, but such a dangerous thing for a child to do. But this is the eighteenth century. No social services. And at least Jamie brought the boy home and gave him a Scottish name, Fergus.

While Jamie was saving Scotland, Claire was fighting boredom and meeting her girlfriends for tea. I thought that scene with Louise and Mary was amusing, but sad. Mary was so sexually innocent that she thought only French men had intercourse with their wives, while Louise was too busy laughing at her to understand her fears.

And Claire finally remembered where she'd heard Mary's name. It's in Frank's family Bible. Mary Hawkins is Frank's direct ancestor. She's going to marry Jack Randall in 1746, poor thing, and I can't think of a couple more unalike. We were then provided with a bit of plot catch-up as Claire admitted to herself that she hadn't thought about Frank's very existence depending on Black Jack Randall still being alive. Poor Mary! I know I said it twice, but it bears repeating.

Has Mary met Jack Randall already? She knows his little brother Alex.

Louise de la Tour came across as shallow, mean and not very likable. How perceptive of Maître Raymond to direct Claire to l'Hôpital des Anges, where she found a new friend with whom she had much more in common. At first, Mother Hildegarde thought Claire was a rich and useless socialite, but Claire's medical knowledge quickly impressed her, and vice versa. It was an almost immediate meeting of the minds.



And how lovely that Mother Hildegarde has a diagnostic dog. Every medical professional should have one.

Acting like the old-fashioned husband he most certainly is not, Jamie was outright crabby that Claire was no longer at his beck and call, and understandably not thrilled that she was tasting urine and lancing boils at a charity hospital. Did he forget who Claire really is? At least he was back to himself by the end of the episode when Claire's new relationship with Mother Hildegarde came in handy deciphering a secret musical code. That bit with the Goldberg Variations was clever. The key is the key.

I've become such a fan of Murtagh as a character, and I loved how he was, ahem, key to several important plot points this time. Claire caught Murtagh sleeping with her maid Suzette, and lost her temper, but Murtagh later realized that the reason she was upset was because she and Jamie still weren't sleeping together. Which led to Claire confiding in Murtagh that Jack Randall was still alive, and that she didn't know what to do about it. Claire and Murtagh share a mutual love for Jamie Fraser that has made them close allies and friends.

Which led us to the problem of the coded message originating from the Duke of Sandringham, who is apparently playing both sides of the Rebellion against the middle. Jamie is going to meet with Sandringham, but if he does, the Black Jack will undoubtedly be out of the bag. What if Jamie discovers Randall is alive, completely loses it, runs off and kills him, and gets himself hanged?

Finally, in the Chekhov's gun plot department, Claire noticed that Maître Raymond's shop stocked monkshood, a deadly poison, and asked if he sold it to his customers. Raymond told Claire that when his customers asked for poison, he gave them bitter cascara instead. It would make the victim vomit violently, but wouldn't kill them.

So Maître Raymond might be a decent guy – but maybe not. He's like this season's Geillis Duncan, isn't he? (I still miss Geillis! What happened to her? Huh?)

Bits:

— It's a good thing Jared's servants are discreet. There was much talking about preventing the Rebellion right in front of them, and they all appear to speak English.

— Jamie beats Duverney at chess, every time. I like Duverney. He has the good sense to like Jamie and dislike Prince Charlie.

— Claire showed her thoughtfulness by going to Maître Raymond's to pick up a contraceptive for Suzette (and Murtagh). Maître Raymond pointed out that most of the time, it's the maid acquiring secret birth control for her mistress. That's actually something that has already come up a lot, that being faithful is unfashionable.

— At Maître Raymond's, Claire ran into Comte St. Germain, who reminded us that he's a threat without actually doing anything threatening.

— When Claire met Fergus for the first time, he thought it was in good taste to compliment her breasts. That boy needs a home.

— The diabetes scene reminded me of a similar one in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, where Michaela also diagnosed "sugar sickness" by tasting urine.

— The entertainment at Madame Elise's freaks me out a bit. This time, it was a woman's body being painted so that her back looked like her front.

Quotes:

Mary: "Men don't do things like that where I come from."
Louise: "And where is that? The moon?"

Murtagh: "Now, if you don't mind, I have some business with your maid to finish."
Claire: "I don't suppose you've ever thought of birth control?"
Murtagh: "Control?"

Jamie: "What is politics but chess on a grand scale?"

Claire: "I've had the most wonderful day. I lanced two boils, changed filthy dressings, and saw my first case of full-blown scrofula."
Murtagh: "The carriage ride home was full of delightful tales of blood and pus and gangrenous toenails."

Fergus: "Let me go, you dirty English bastard!"
Jamie: "English? First of all, I'm a dirty Scottish bastard. And second, you won't go anywhere, lad!"

Jamie: "He's a pickpocket. His name's Fergus. Well, actually it's Claudel, but we agreed that wasn't very manly."

Claire: "Johann Sebastian Bach?"
Mother Hildegarde: "I'm surprised you have heard of him. He sends me things now and again. He calls them 'inventions' and they are really quite clever. But I'm afraid his music is not the sort to endure. Clever, but no heart."

An enjoyable episode. Three out of four Goldberg variations,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

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