Series Rewatch – Outlander: Season 1, Episode 3 – The Way Out

Written by Diana Gabaldon, Ronald D. Moore, and Anne Kenney
Directed by Brian Kelly

There are many things going on in the third episode of the first season of the series Outlander. In some ways, they can’t be appreciated until (or unless) you know what will happen in the future. Claire’s presence at Castle Leoch is becoming more normalized, although she still is very much a stranger in a strange land.

The episode opens with the memory of Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Frank (Tobias Menzies) on a train platform during World War II as he is seeing her off on her assignment on the front lines. They admit this is the reverse of how it usually is. She promises to return to him. The scene then cuts to Claire at Castle Leoch in Scotland in 1743 where she contemplates telling Mrs. Fitz (Annette Badland) the truth and what the reaction would be. She keeps quiet.

Instead, she decides to try and make herself trusted so she will have the room to escape and go back to Craig na Dun when the opportunity presents itself.

She hears about a young boy who died and asks why she wasn’t called on. The people believe he was killed by a demon and Claire couldn’t have helped him. Colum MacKenzie (Gary Lewis) then asks Claire to massage his legs, stating the previous healer used to do it. Claire obliges but also suggests massaging the base of his spine will help more. He asks her to come to the Gathering of Clans. Claire sees it as a way of getting into Colum and Dougal’s (Graham McTavish) good graces.

When Jamie (Sam Heughan) sees Claire that evening, listening to a traveling musician with the rest of the castle, he is worried that she is drunk and might say something to get herself in trouble. He makes up an excuse to get her out of there. They share a tender moment in the surgery where Jamie confesses he doesn’t like people seeing the scars on his back, but doesn’t mind Claire seeing them.

Claire is gathering herbs with Geillis Duncan (Lotte Verbeek) when Geillis tells her about the local priest performing an exorcism of Mrs. Fitz’s grandson as he’s being affected the same way the boy who died was. Claire believes there’s a medical reason. Geillis warns her that challenging the priest is dangerous, but Claire decides to go anyway. She finds the boy tied to the bed and examines him. Even the boy believes it is a demon.

Dougal finds Claire mourning Frank (although he doesn’t know why she is crying) and asks if Claire wants to visit Geillis to make sure she has all of the medicines needed before the Gathering. While there, Claire witnesses the punishment of a boy who stole a loaf of bread. She is appalled that he would lose his hand. Geillis manages to use her wiles on her husband, who will decide the punishment, and the sentence is much reduced, despite what the priest was urging “to save his immortal soul.”

Claire asks Jamie to accompany her to the Black Kirk, which is an old monastery, which is where the locals believe demons live and where the boys were before they became ill. Jamie opens up more about his own background to her. Claire put it together that the boys ingested a poisonous plant. When she approached Mrs. Fitz about it, she battles the priest who says she is wrong about the cause. Mrs. Fitz also stands up to the priest and allows Claire to treat the boy. The boy quickly recovers once Claire treats him.

That night, the traveling musician tells the folk tale of a woman who disappeared through the Stones and later returned, giving Claire hope that she can return to her own time through the Stones at Craigh na Dun.

This episode puts science against religion. Of course, in that age there was much that wasn’t understood about illnesses. People didn’t know about germs, viruses, and the like. Claire approaches problems from a scientific angle. She finds it hard to believe the boy is “possessed,” while everyone else accepts it as the likely explanation. Even in the modern day she left behind, the point was made in the first episode of how superstitious people are in Scotland. In the 1600s they turned to a priest before a healer when they were sick. Claire discards the medicines in the apothecary that she knows are useless, but in that time, they, too, were thought to have healing powers. She’s bringing 20th-century science into a world that is not ready for it.

The difference in the ages is also demonstrated when Mrs. Fitz comments about Claire’s skin. She states she’s never seen anyone older than 8 or 9 who doesn’t have skin marked by injury or illness. Claire has been immunized against many of the illnesses that would leave scars on the body, something we take for granted nowadays.

Jamie and Claire spend time bonding in this episode. She feels safe with him, and he seems to be watching out for her. He confided to Claire his feelings about the scars on his back. People at the castle know he has been flogged, but knowing and seeing are two different things. He worries people will look at him differently; will think that the scars somehow define him. Claire, however, sees them and doesn’t pity him. He admires her in many ways, because she is different than most of the women he knows. Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) makes the point that Jamie needs to marry a woman, and Laoghaire (Nell Hudson), who has eyes on Jamie, will be a girl still when she’s 50.

Rewatching it, and knowing what happens, it’s apparent that Dougal has conspired with Geillis to try to get the truth out of Claire, which is why he wants Claire to visit her. It’s inferred that Geillis put something in her drink that would help loosen her tongue, or maybe just the alcohol, in general, would do that if Jamie hadn’t come along for her. Of course, at this time we don’t know that Geillis and Dougal have a relationship, so it’s not obvious.

This is character-driven, and the acting is solid. Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe really share chemistry and seem very comfortable with each other. Their conversations feel like two people who like each other developing a deep friendship. They seem to trust each other when they have no one else around them who they can trust. My only qualm is Lotte Verbeek, whom I absolutely adored in Agent Carter. Here, she seems a bit wooden, or like she’s trying too hard to create the air of mystery that belongs to Geillis. There are a lot of wide-eyed declarations that seem to almost be overacting. I don’t know if that’s what the director called for or if it’s on the actress. Her appearance in Outlander was prior to Agent Carter, so it could be that she just got better.

All in all, this is another solid episode that keeps a good pace going and sets up a number of other future stories, without beating the viewer over the head with it.

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