TV REVIEW: Outlander, S1, E5: Rent

Continuing on with the very straightforward episode titles, “Rent” gets us away from Castle Leoch and on the road! Claire joins Dougal and company on a rent-collecting trip and to her horror, he uses the scars on Jamie’s back to gain sympathy for the Jacobite cause, regardless of Jamie’s discomfort.

At first, Claire believes Dougal is doing this to line his own pockets, not understanding Scots Gaelic. However, as the trip goes on, she soon realizes the true purpose for the fundraising and recalls that a defining moment in Scottish history is fast approaching. Can she warn them away from a doomed cause?

But to whom? Claire stands overlooking a loch, reciting a verse from a poem by John Donne and joined at the end by lawyer Ned Gowan. She’s likely thinking about how she still loves Frank despite their distance but I’m finding that harder and harder to believe as time goes on. She finds a kindred spirit in old Ned and it’s one of the few times we see her immediately connect with someone other than Mrs. Fitz and Jamie.

The MacKenzie men are busy teasing and roughhousing with poor wee Willie while Ned explains what constitutes rent in these times. Geese and grain are common – and he expressly states that no pigs will be accepted this time! We learn a bit more about old Mr. Gowan (he’s asthmatic) and Claire states once more that she won’t be dissuaded from finding a way home. While I understand that this would be anyone’s main motivation, it’s getting a bit tired to hear her say it over and over again!

Making camp, the Scotsmen are huddled around a fire, while Claire sits alone off to the side. Graham McTavish must’ve had a great time filming this scene as Dougal does his best imitation of a curvy housewife for a raunchy story he’s telling the lads. This of course, makes Claire roll her eyes as she’s handed a roasted, very-much-looks-like-a-bunny, rabbit. Refusing to eat (but not because her “delicate” sensibilities have been offended), she comments that this plus their exclusive use of Gaelic is meant to make her feel like even more of an outsider than she already does. Maybe they think she’ll have a breakdown and give up her secrets? Not our Claire!

Jamie comes over and gives her some bread and a kind(ish?) word when she states that they all hate her. Maybe Angus does (no – not Angus!) but it’s just everyone’s mistrust of her that makes them hold her at arms length. When he calls her out on her attempted escape at the gathering, she gets annoyed and pushes off to her tent.  Jamie pretty much tells her to be careful of what you ask – you may not like the answer!

We witness the villagers lining up to pay rent to the MacKenzies – chickens, sacks of grain and even live pigs. Dougal has good relations with his tenants and invites them to have a dram of whisky with him later that night. Boredom and curiosity overtaking her, Claire goes off to explore and comes upon Mrs. Gilchrist who explains that the singing is a song for waulking wool. This process involves pouring hot urine to set the dyed yarn and keep it from running. I am going to let out a big, fat “Ewwwwwww!” and thank bejebus that I do not live in the 18th Century. Yuck! This doesn’t stop Claire from joining in and then celebrating with a secret drink. Her out-of-place “Bottoms up!” only contributes that much more to her feeling of being a sassenach.

Cries of a hungry baby fill the air and brings the unfairness of the rent process to the forefront, disturbing Claire. Knowing she is in relatively safe company, she slyly mentions Craigh na Dun – trying to ascertain how far it is from her current location. Armed with that information, she starts to contribute her own golden liquid to the cause and is startled by a furious Angus.

He manhandles her down the hill which only serves to infuriate her and she looks ready to beat the crap out of Angus. Making the mistake of walking ahead of her, she detours to take the Gilchrist’s goat back to them. She begins to cause a scene, drawing Dougal over who waves off her rant as the drunken rambling of a sassenach, but it draws the eye of a fellow Englishman who asks if she is alright. Startled by a familiar accent, she doesn’t have a chance to answer before he is intimidated into backing down. We (but they) don’t see that the young man is an undercover English soldier. The MacKenzie’s don’t know how deep they’re in it now, do they?

At night, Dougal gives a rousing speech and we aren’t aware of what’s actually being said until he shockingly tears open Jamie’s shirt, revealing his scarred back. Everyone dumps money into a sack after that and from what it looks like, Dougal is using his nephew to keep some money on the side for himself. This only stokes Claire’s anger, especially when he tosses her the torn garment to mend as Jamie sits there, humiliated.

Initially, she refuses but when Dougal ignores her ire and says Jamie can wear rags, she relents but the King of Men angrily spits out that he can do it himself before storming out. Dougal sits there drinking like nothing’s happened and I’ve never wanted to punch him in the face more than I did right at that moment! Claire thinks she’s being slick – offhandedly mentioning to Ned that she’s noticed what’s going on. The group comes upon the burning remains of a home belonging to English sympathizers – the burning being done by the Watch. When Dougal takes some of the spoils, it only solidifies what she believes is happening.

If you thought Claire was angry before, just you wait! Refusing the food Angus hands her – she spits out that she doesn’t eat stolen food with thieves. This comment enrages the man who whips out his dirk (that’s a small knife you naughty people!) and threatens her with it. Jamie calms him down enough for her to yank her arm away and storm off.

Now Jamie’s curiosity is getting the better of him as he asks what’s gotten into her (I’m refraining from making my own lewd joke here) and warns that she shouldn’t judge what she doesn’t understand and to stay out of it. A look of betrayal steals across her face as she her sympathy for Jamie and thoughts of him as a friendly face overlooked the fact that he’s still a Scot. She later confronts Dougal with her theory about the extra funds who tells her to mind her own business.

If you haven’t noticed, Claire’s fiery temper and fierce independence are both a boon and a detriment to her safety. The dog and pony show with Jamie’s back continues in every village until Claire finally recognizes a line in Dougal’s speech that mentions the Stuarts.

It dawns on her that Dougal isn’t saving money for himself but for the Jacobite cause – one that is doomed to fail and leads to the end of the clans. Hello Frank! We’re back in the past as we’re shown what Claire knows of the Second Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. Jamie tries to stand up to Dougal regarding his back but is put in his place – as long as he’s on MacKenzie soil, he does what Dougal wants. Angry, he beats the crap out of a tree but offers Claire a smile before heading to bed (but not with each other – whomp whomp!) The next morning, the group comes upon a gruesome scene courtesy of the redcoats – two dead Scots strung up on crosses. Later that night, Dougal gives his speech – but without the need for Jamie’s back to show the brutality of the English.

In bed, Claire hears a sound from her door and armed with a candlestick holder, goes to investigate. She almost brains Jamie – who is sleeping outside her door to protect her. When she suggests he sleep in the room as it’s warmer, the scandalized look that Jamie gives her cracks me up so much! She doesn’t see a problem but acquiesces to him staying by her door if he takes her blanket. As it’s passed over, their hands touch and linger, more than what is normal and they break off their stares before bidding goodnight. Phew! Pass the fans – it’s getting hot in here!

We get a raucous fight (fantastic bagpiping music here!) and Murtagh – in his honest way – informs her that Angus started it because they were defending Claire’s honor. Throughly ashamed, she makes her own dirty joke much to the amusement of the others. Even though her warnings were meant to be helpful, Dougal doesn’t see it that way and before he can deal with her, the young redcoat from earlier appears with his compatriots, surrounding them. Wuh oh! Doesn’t look good for either of them!

What did you think? A bit more setting up but the chemistry between Jamie and Claire has kicked up a notch as have the stakes – what will happen to her with the redcoats involved once more?

If you haven’t been listening to Ron D. Moore’s behind-the-scenes podcasts, what are you waiting for? They give great insight into choices made while filming the episode and only serve to add enjoyment to the series. Check out the ones currently out below:

BTS Episode 101 | BTS Episode 102 | BTS Episode 103 | BTS Episode 104 | BTS Episode 105

Rating: 4/5
Sharlene Mousfar

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