This article centers on Season 3, Episode 7 of Outlander, “Crème the Menthe.” If you’re not yet caught up with the show, be warned: Spoilers abound.
Now that Claire and Jamie have reunited, all I need from this show is for them to have hot sex from the beginning of each remaining episode until the end. Alas, this is Outlander, so instead, there will be melodrama. And tonight’s episode, “Crème the Menthe,” felt more like an average one, filler to end the first arc of the season and transition into the next.
As the episode opens, Claire is fighting off the man she found in her room because, again, this show loves nothing more than to imperil women to create plot points. We must never forget that to be a woman is to live in a perpetual state of vulnerability. Got it? Good. Claire manages to fight off her attacker, wielding a knife. (See, women are vulnerable but they are also empowered!) The attacker falls, hits his head and is seemingly dead when Jamie enters the room and sees his wife over an unconscious man, panting heavily, knife still in hand. That’s when I knew there probably wasn’t going to be any sex in this episode. I was mostly right. Despite being apart for twenty years, Claire and Jamie don’t spend this entire episode in bed. They don’t spend any time in bed. It makes no sense.
When Claire realizes her attacker is still breathing, she immediately shifts into surgeon mode and insists on saving his life. (“Because I’m a doctor,” she explains when Jamie understandably asks why she wants to save her attacker’s life.) As usual, Claire is instantly able to translate 20th-century knowledge into whatever might be available in the 18th century and makes various people get her various things, including hot water. No matter the time period, whether in television or film, anytime something vaguely makeshift medical is going to happen, there must be hot water.
It turns out the attacker was looking for Jamie’s ledgers at the behest of Sir Percival Turner, who suspects Jamie is selling more than he claims and not paying Percival enough of a bribe. (Corrupt government agents are so greedy and suspicious.) Jamie realizes he’s going to have to move the booze he has hidden in Madame Jeanne’s basement and dispatches Fergus and young Ian Fraser to make a quick sale of the hooch, which they do at handsome profit.
Meanwhile, Claire goes to the apothecary to get some laudanum and who knows what else so she can perform surgery. In a hurry, she bargains with a man in front of her—who was looking for something to calm his sister—to go ahead of him in return for looking in on his ailing sister. As she places her order, Claire informs the chemist that a man’s life is at stake…which is so weird. Why is she broadcasting her business, particularly when so much is at stake? It makes no sense!
Back at the brothel, Jamie and Mr. Willoughby are wrestling with the attacker, who has awakened and is loudly trying to break free of their grip. Claire chastises them for being rough with her patient (LOL wut?), but before she can lecture them further, Madame Jeanne alerts Jamie that Sir Percival has paid him a visit. While Claire tries to reduce a brain bleed ye olden way, Sir Percival and his men search the brothel for the contraband booze Fergus and Ian have already sold off.
The surgery stuff that follows is incredibly graphic and unpleasant. The sound effects—of skin splitting open and a hand drill breaking skull bone—are doing the absolute most. At last, Claire successfully releases the clot while Sir Percival finds nothing of note in the brothel and makes like a dastardly villain, warning Jamie, “I’ll be watching you,” before he flounces off. Sure thing, buddy.
When Jamie returns to his chambers, he tells Claire, “This ends now’; but the attacker has died during surgery and Claire is sad. Ever the voice of reason, Jamie says, “I won’t grieve for the man that tried to kill my wife.” Right on, Jamie! Keep it real. Claire stays deep in her feelings, muttering that this wouldn’t have happened if she was in Boston, which, GIRL! You are not in Boston, anymore. You chose to go back in time for the best sex of your life. There’s a price to pay—no modern hospital facilities, not a lot of bathing, no television. The struggle is real in any century. She laments that she’s caused Jamie so much trouble in the brief time she’s been back, but Jamie, true to form, says some incredibly romantic, sexy shit and that’s that.
A doctor’s work is never done, so Claire heads off to see about that apothecary customer, Archibald Campbell, and his sister Margaret. He claims his sister is a seer and he “translates” her visions and it all seems kind of sketchy. Claire tells Archibald that Margaret is not a seer; she’s just mentally ill. She cautions him to stop medicating his sister with laudanum and offers him an herbal tea recipe to calm her when she gets agitated. Archibald isn’t so interested in tea…he basically wants to keep his sister sedated because they are heading to the West Indies the next day. As she leaves, Claire suggests Margaret eat a lot of fresh fruit when she gets to the islands. I have no idea what’s going on with that.
To celebrate their profitable sales, Fergus and Ian have a drink at the local tavern. As young men are wont to do, they start talking about sex. Turns out, Ian is a virgin and one of the young barmaids, Brighid, has caught his eye. Fergus makes like an expert wingman and hooks Ian and Brighid up but first Fergus discloses that his first time was a menage a trois. (Of course it was. He’s French, after all.)
Ian gets really lucky and Brighid seems more than amenable to having a drink with the young man. A love connection is made! Ian brings Brighid back to the print shop because nothing says romance like a print shop. He is drunk and singing loudly and then he and Brighid are making out and then they start to make love after a bit of an awkward start. So, I guess there is some sex in this episode, but it is not at all the sexy kind and we don’t see much of it, which is fine by me because Ian is like, a child, and he is very pale and no thanks. I’m not even sure why this episode featured this storyline other than to give a plausible reason for what happens next to Ian. I suspect this is the first and the last we will see of sex between anyone but Claire and Jamie and thank goodness for that.
Upon returning to the brothel, Claire suggests that maybe she and Jamie can get a place of their own and Jamie’s like, “Leave the brothel?” as if it is the wildest thing in the world for Claire to want to live somewhere other than a brothel. She also broaches opening her own practice, but they are interrupted when Ian Sr. shows up looking for Ian Jr. Apparently young Ian keeps running away from home, and Jamie is keeping watch over his nephew (while also pretending he doesn’t know where the boy is). Ian Sr. is shocked to see Claire alive and well, but is also distraught over his missing son. Jamie lies about the boy’s whereabouts and Claire seethes quietly because she disapproves. Jamie walks Ian out and the men allude to some secret Jamie is keeping that could cause trouble. (I am pretty sure I know what the secret is because I consulted Wikipedia about Book 3’s plot and I am very angry about the plot twist because it is so irritating and senseless and Claire is going to flip her lid when she finds out.)
Before any of that unfolds in some future episode, Ian and Brighid are basking in the afterglow of young love when another of Sir Percival’s minions shows up at the print shop, looking for the contraband casks. Corrupt and greedy government agents are also persistent. Ian confronts the man to little avail. As the minion searches, he finds Jamie’s seditious pamphlets. Oh no! There is a scuffle and soon the building is on fire. Of course it is. Ian sends Brighid to safety while he tries to put out the fire. The minion gets away with the seditious pamphlets; poor Ian is alone in the burning building; and Jamie just lied to his brother-in-law about his son’s safety. Every melodramatic possibility is happening all at once.
Jamie and Claire are having a tight-lipped argument about his lying to Ian Sr. that turns into an argument about parenting choices. Jamie gets real passive aggressive, saying he didn’t get a chance to parent Brianna, and he makes a shitty comment about Brianna wearing a bikini. His jealousy over her marriage to Frank comes out, but before anything can be resolved, Jamie is told there’s a fire at the print shop.
Ian is trapped and Jamie knows it, so he rushes, gallantly, straight into the fire and there’s lots of close calls—the score, never subtle on this show, makes it seem like death is imminent—but fret not, all is well. Jamie saves Ian and grabs the portrait of his son, Willie, and though the print shop is destroyed, everyone lives. There is, of course, the small problem of the seditious pamphlets but Jamie is in Edinburgh under a false name so he can just go back to being himself in the Highlands. Yes, this is all an elaborate plot device to get the Frasers and Ian back to Lallybroch. Jamie ties up some loose ends with Mr. Willoughby and Fergus lets it drop that Jamie has another wife which is so messy. Claire is, all the while, completely unsuspecting and probably about to walk into a fire of her own. Of course, the episode ends on this revelation, so sadly, we will not know more about this mess until next week. Until then!
Roxane Gay is the author of Bad Feminist, Difficult Women, and most recently, Hunger. She is also the author of World of Wakanda for Marvel and a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times.