BY THE PRICKING OF MY THUMBS
Original Air Date 4/11/15
As Ron Moore said in a piece about this episode, its title is pulled directly from the book, OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, upon which the series is based.
But, whence the quote?
It is from Shakespeare as discussed on e-notes (http://www.enotes.com/shakespeare-quotes/by-pricking-my-thumbs)
By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes. [Knocking]
How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!
What is’t you do?
It’s interesting that this refers to how a Witch feels when someone wicked and self-serving, like Macbeth, comes a-calling.
In the book and series I think it refers to the entry on the scene of the double dealing Duke of Sandringham, AND the behavior of the “innocent” maid Laoghaire who gets Claire and Geillis in trouble. But, there are other parallels to the Scottish Play in the story as well, especially with characters. Who do you think Geillis might be?
As far as this episode goes, it sticks closely to the spirit of Diana’s story even if slightly disordered and not exactly the same. For example, the scenes and storyline with the Duke of Sandringham deviate from the book, but get the job done.
Wouldn’t it be fascinating to hear the conferences between Diana, the scriptwriters, the director and the cast in how they adapt Diana’s tale into a TV show: What the goal of this episode is, how it affects the rest of the series, how to accomplish it’s goals, what to keep and what to change or toss.
I had read that at the start of this episode Jamie’s devotion to Claire would not be in question. It starts off with showing Jamie as a “Cunning Linguist.” As Claire approaches release, or completion (euphemisms employed in many a book) there’s a knock at the door with Murtagh demanding entrance. Ever the devoted husband, Jamie gets Claire off before he answers the door.
This is not a scene to watch with company.
Murtagh has news of Sandringham’s arrival to convey. Jamie is excited and says he could lift the price from his head. Knowing BJR (Black Jack Randall) is aligned with the Duke, Claire urges caution because of this association.
The Duke is PERFECTLY cast with Simon Callow playing the character.
Jamie thinks she means because of both men’s sexual orientation and says he’ll not be offering his hindquarters but that it is his only chance for pardon. Murtagh recommends talking to Ned Gowan about it.
Jamie explains that with a pardon he could return a free man to Lallybroch where he can take his place as Laird and she can be the lady – he tells he he knows they would be happy there.
Through the series, Lallybroch is always the paradise of nearly perfect home.
Ned tells Jamie that no judge will take Jamie’s word over the Captain’s. Jamie says so there’s nothing to be done? Ned says that it is just not the way to approach it. He has to make the Duke of Sandringham’s association with BJR more of a liability than an asset. They need to alter the Duke’s support of BJR.
We switch to a little visit by Claire to the kitchens where Laoghaire is speaking with her grandmother Mrs. Fitz. Claire asks to speak with Laoghaire. Now if you’ve read the series, you know that this lass is no sweetheart, but a total bee-yotch. Claire is all, So I found this thing under my bed. and goes on to try to align Laoghaire’s views of her and Jamie’s non-relationship with reality. After all it was Claire who Jamie brought to a screaming O a few hours earlier. After proving how far from reality she is, Laoghaire finally admits to having bought it from Geillis. Claire slaps Laoghaire and then does a sorry, not sorry.
Laoghaire is happy to tell her about her being wrong that Geillis is her friend. Claire tells Laoghaire to stay away from her husband.
Claire pays a visit to the home Geillis shares with her elderly husband, Arthur. Arthur is dyspeptic and searching for one of the medicinals that the absent Geillis gives him. Claire picks something up and tells the girl it will help him, but Arthur is flatulent and about to have explosive diarrhea. The maid tells her where she can find the witchy woman as it is a full-moon she’ll be off at the stones.
Claire goes to Craig Na Dun and finds Geillis dancing about in ecstasy, chanting and nearly skyclad. Claire remembers the dances that she an Frank witnessed at the stones 200 years in the future. As she finishes her observations, during which she strips, Claire sees she is pregnant. Geillis knows she is there and calls her over. It was a summoning.
Geillis admits the pregnancy but says no one, not even Arthur knows; he’s never even seen her naked.
Claire says that she thought she wasn’t doing Arthur, her husband. Oh no she tells Claire, I’m doing Dougal who’s wife is unwell, oh and ugly too! In time she says that maybe her summoning will be fruitful.
As they are leaving, Geillis tells Claire she didn’t know the ill-wish was for Claire or she wouldn’t have sold it to her. (Obviously, Geillias hasn’t heard that what goes around comes around and oh yeah, first do no harm.) The two profess their friendship to each other. Then they do each other’s nails, trade My Little Ponies, and exchange bracelets.
Actually, Geillis is convinced that Dougal loves them and he gave her a bauble to Duke of Sandringham had given to Dougal. Claire is perplexed because the Duke is British and supposedly pro-King-George and Dougal, well is not. Geillis says that Sandringham talks to Collum, but that it is Dougal he is fond of. Then she remembers Frank and Reverend Wakefield discussing the Duke’s proclivities.
They hear a baby crying, Geillis says it’s a fairy hill and not a human child but a changeling. The parents of a sickly baby who had obviously been transplanted into the home by fairies would put it out and the fae would come back and get it. With Geillis wanting nothing to do with something good, Claire goes off on her own to find the child who she finds too late and she clutches the baby until Jamie comes to get her. He explains that when they came back to a dead child the parents would still be able to think of their child playing and laughing in Faerie.
She tells him to take her home and off they go, with Claire realizes even more how effed up the 18th century is.
When they get back to the castle they discuss Ned’s theory that BJR’s assault and later kidnapping and near rape of an Englishwoman is a black mark that would be too great for BJR to overcome. He needs Claire to swear to it.
At the Duke’s estate, Claire is on her own with out Jamie’s knowledge, bringing him the accusation verbally and in person. She is cagey here. Too much so, I think, for the character. BOOK Claire can not prevaricate without giving up the game. TV Show Claire can.
The Duke is a legend in his own mind with a personal secretary he tells to take down this or that phrase he thinks is soooo smart because he wants to write a book.
By alluding cleverly to knowing about BJR and the Duke she seems to sway him to her side.
When Claire returns to the castle they are seeking her help. Dougal is in a rant over the sudden death, by fever, of his wife. They need Clair to give him something to knock him out . At one point Dougal says “Not even a blind man would think she was bonny, but she deserved better than me!”
Apparently he did not enjoy “grinding her corn” as much as he did Geillis’.
Angus gets Dougal’s wine and Claire adds a sedative to it.
I have never seen an oral sedative that worked as fast as this did — Dougal is knocked out, cold in about 5 seconds.
Collum, who has not been happy with Dougal lately, looks on in disgust. but, he tells his and Dougal’s men to handle him carefully, threatening dire consequences.
In the castle yard, Geillis is all smiles over Morag, DOugal’s wife’s demise. Claire is shocked by Geillis who thinks she and Dougal can be together now. Claire reminds her of her husband and Geillis giggles prophetically.
When Jamie delivers the note to his Grace, the Duke, who says he must damn the Captain without implicating himself. As a Quid Pro Quo The Duke asks Jamie to second in a pro forma duel. His Fraser clansman and Godfather, Murtagh, advises against this, but Jamie feels it is his only chance to return to Lallybroch.
Back at the castle the dinner in honor of the DUke of Sandringham begins with levity and toasting. Jamie introduces Claire to the DUke; he doesn;t know they are already acquainted. Claire an the Duke share a civil moment wherein she reprimands him for getting his pound of flesh. Everything is merry until Geillis’ husband, Arthur Duncan, collapses and although Clair attends him, following basic 20th century first aid protocols, Arthur dies, foaming at the mouth. Noting a look passing between Dougal and Geillis, Claire smells bitter almonds, the scent of cyanide, and knows Geillis has poisoned her husband. Geillis, temporarily seen by Claire not as a frightened and grieving widow, but as a scheming murderess, throws herself on Arthur’s body and wails appropriately.
At the Duke’s they go through the proforma duel where the Laird of the MacDonalds has challenged Sandringham over non-payment of a debt. They miss each other and start walking off. The MacDonald’s seconds (cousins, sons?) make disparaging remarks, as I understand would have been traditional. But one boy attacks Jamie, sword or dirk drawn. Jamie is injured but not until damaging all the MacDonalds. The Duke, grabs the petition and prances off, apologetically. Seriously – he prances.
Back at Leoch, CLaire is angrily sewing p Jamie’s wound. Jamie is called into Collum’s presence. Collum is in a right lather; exiling Dougal who refuses to give up Geillis. He tells Collum about the child. Collum reminds him that the child will be considered the issue of the late Mr. Duncan, just as Hamish is his son.
Then he calls out Jamie for spilling MacDonald blood without his, Collum’s permission. Jamie tries to explain, and to leave Leoch for Lallybroch since the Collum thinks so poorly of him. But Collum is disparaging and orders Jamie to guard Dougal and leave Claire as surety.
Jamie and Claire are in the yard taking their leave. She is upset that he is traveling with his new wound and she won’t be there to care for it. Dougal tells him to kiss his wife , they are leaving. After they passionately make out Dougal says he told Jamie to kiss his wife, not swallow her.
Jamie admonishes Claire to be careful and stay away from Geillis who is no longer protected from her own reputation or from Collum.
In a new scene, Claire is attending a burn on Mrs. Fitz’s arm when a note comes that says Come quick Geillis. Claire leaves with haste thinking it is an emergency. But when she arrives Geillis says it wasn’t her. Claire says she knows about her having poisoned Arthur. Geillis denies it as loud knocking starts on the doors. Geillis throws the vial containing the deadly potion into the fire. The wardens are there to arrest Geillis for witchcraft and since Claire is there they arrest her as well. As they bundle the two off in the equivalent of a paddy wagon, Claire sees a sneering Laoghaire in the square.
A lot of this episode is like girls in high school alternately swearing everlasting friendship and then the one turns on the other. If Geillis is an obvious wolf, then, of course, Laoghaire is the wolf in sheep’s clothing. She looks like a saint, and of course no one will remember her father thought she was loose and brought her to court for justice which Jamie took. They may remember Jamie standing up for her, and see it as a sign of his devotion.
Witchcraft was a serious accusation and women were burned at the stake throughout the centuries. I am not sure when it stopped. It was nearly impossible to defend yourself against the charge. The trial was usually a damned if you do or damned if you don’t affair. How will Claire get out of it? Will she or are the other books in the series about Jamie and Laoghaire. What do you think??