Outlander: Season 2, Episode 8 – “The Fox’s Lair”

A return to Scotland offers a temporary peace, before things really kick off.

Can you smell it? The lush grass of the rolling hills matched with the brisk cold wind as you pull your wool cover closer in? This episode of Outlander brings us back home to Scotland. Paris was probably a good idea, but it turned into a big mistake. Nothing good comes from trying to change something that’s set in stone. With a pass from the French King Louis (Lionel Lingelser), Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) are permitted to return to Lollybroch to repair their broken souls.

It seems to suit them. After experiencing such bitter trauma, returning to a simpler life where there’s a lot to do, but not too much to handle, they both can find their center again. They are renewed. By the time we meet up with them again, time has passed and they look in love again; holding each other close and kissing in front of the whole family — which now includes Fergus (Romann Berrux).

The only time their lost child was mentioned was when Claire woke up to find Jamie out of bed and spending time with Jenny’s (Laura Donnelly) newest baby. Claire watched over this scene with a tear in her eye, wondering what might have been. These moments of quiet emotion are where Balfe really shines. Although her fight scenes can push over a mountain, it’s the moments in which she wears Claire’s heart on her sleeve that really hits home.

Of course, good times don’t last long for one of Scotland’s most chased families. Putting themselves in the thick of it with Prince Charles (Andrew Gower) in France has made the Prince believe that Jamie’s in full support of his cause. Jamie receives a letter from the Prince announcing which clansman claim to oppose the crown and want to fight for Scotland; Jamie’s name has been forged. In a time before handwriting experts, this letter marks him as a traitor to the crown and therefore in grave danger — again.

Now the rebellion is rather unstoppable. They need to find a way to create a larger force against the British, and a better way to prepare the men in order to have a fighting chance against what Claire knows was a bad and quick annihilation of the Scottish rebels. Why Claire suddenly supports the idea of Jamie joining the battle is unclear. She should just tell him stay back on the day of the battle, but Jamie’s willingness to fight for home and country, and their eventual family, in an independent homeland is a lot to put aside.

When Claire and Jamie reach the home Jamie’s grandfather, Lord Lovat (Clive Russell), in the hopes of gaining more men and support for the cause, Colum MacKenzie (Gary Lewis) arrives at the same time to persuade Lovat to disengage from this rebellion and let is pass, like previous unsuccessful uprisings. Jamie’s caught between trying to be his own man and stand up to his grandfather and creating a plan that will allow the Scots to have a fighting chance.

Claire has her own interaction that puts her in an awkward position, with the return of Laoghaire MacKenzie (Nell Hudson). While it was big of her to approach Claire and ask for forgiveness, it was clearly foolish thinking that Claire would be instantaneous in offering it. Claire’s quick to respond, but not positively, and the moment nicely highlights the stark difference in maturity between the two. Laoghaire looks like a small child admitting to her parents that she broke a lamp; clearly, the severity of almost having Claire killed doesn’t seem to faze her. Claire, on the other hand, is only interested in making her see the errors of her ways, and making it clear that she’s with Jamie and that won’t be changing any time soon. Leave it to Claire to convey all this while striking some fear in Laoghaire.

The season two episodes have had a tendency to get bogged down in politics, by needing to explain every aspect of a complicated historical circumstance just to have their characters fit. Diplomacy is not working for Jamie with the clansmen, despite the long, overly expositional scene about the politics facing the group. Claire decides instead that they need to use Laoghaire to get around negotiation and peacekeeping. Although Laoghaire still has her heart set on Jamie Fraser, she uses her wiles, and more, to steer Lovat’s son, Simon (James Parris), to be on the side of the rebels and oppose his hardened and harsh father.

The turning point of this episode comes when Colum MacKenzie and Jamie sit across from Lord Lovat, who asks Jamie a very challenging question. He offers that in trade for ownership of Lollybroch, he’ll add men to the force, or he’ll sign a neutrality treaty and stand with the MacKenzies. Claire can’t stand idly by as her home is up for grabs, so she decides to have “a vision”, as she’s now fully embraced the positive side of being a rumored white witch. She shares a vision that the she heard from Lovat’s seer — which he was very opposed to — and predicts his death. Claire shares the story with the packed hall with a bit of acting and showmanship. Lovat tries to come after her angrily, but Jamie and Simon stop him. Her plan manifests. Simon opposing his father leads to men following behind Claire and Jamie as they head towards their next phase.

The sigh of relief we felt at the beginning of the episode, marked by a cool breeze and green hills and time with the family has been replaced, yet again, by a sense of worry. As Claire and Jamie head closer and closer to the battle, the question remains, can they really win? From what Claire can remember, there weren’t enough Scottish rebels to oppose the British, but now, there numbers are increasing.

There are moments in time that cannot change and must come to pass, but the outcome could change. Claire and Jamie were terribly unsuccessful at completing their mission to stop the rebellion in Paris. Maybe winning the battle, or not having this battle be the end of the clans, could lead to a different future. This future would be one that Claire can no longer predict; it’ll no longer be the future she came from.

RATING 8 / 10