There comes a moment in every young time-traveler’s journey when she must ask herself the question: “Will I use the knowledge I have of the future to affect past events?” And that moment for Claire Beauchamp is now. Sure, she’s been using her 20th-century skills to remedy 18th-century ails, but one could argue that the impact of those ministrations is minimal. (Of course, one could also logically argue the opposite, but I’m woefully unprepared to write a 10,000-word treatise on chaos theory at the moment.) So when Claire learns of the clan’s political scheming, she has to decide whether or not to reveal that they are, in fact, doomed.
“Rent” kicks off the on-the-road portion of Outlander, setting Dougal, a dozen or so clansmen (Jamie included), and Claire on a journey through the Highlands to collect taxes on behalf of the Laird. Yet their encampment might as well have a No Girls Allowed sign posted out front for as welcoming as the men are to Claire.
“I wasn’t offended by the lewdness of their jokes or squeamish over the fact that my dinner looked like a shriveled Easter rabbit. Nor was I too dainty to sleep on a pillow made of stone. What troubled me was that they were clearly using Gaelic to exclude me,” Claire muses in voice-over.
Dear Jamie takes pity on her, offering her a lump of bread and words of encouragement: “Don’t worry what they’re saying, lass.” But Claire finds real comfort in another source: the lawyer Ned Gowan, who with his ponytail and spectacles could be Benjamin Franklin’s long-lost Scottish cousin. Educated at the University of Edinburgh, Ned gave up his comfy practice to seek adventure, finding employ under Colum’s father, Jacob MacKenzie. He’s traveling with the group to mind the ledger. (No pigs, please!)
As they make their collections in the first town, Claire becomes restless and wanders off, meeting a village woman keen to put the Sassenach’s idle hands to work. Claire takes a place at a table with a group of women to sing and rhythmically work the wool, tenderizing it, as it were, with “hot piss.” (Do you think that’s how J.Crew made my favorite merino sweater?) During a break, they get to talking about Claire’s journey, and she casually inquires as to the distance to the standing stones of Craigh na Dun (where the fairies live according to local lore). “Three days as the crow flies,” answers one of the women. So, like, kind of far. As Claire squats with a bucket to “donate” for the next round of wool working, Angus barges in and violently pulls her out and back to the clansmen. Angry—for being manhandled and on behalf of her hostess who doesn’t have milk to feed her child because she had to turn over her goat for taxes—Claire grabs the beast in question and tries to return it. Riling up Angus—and Dougal—even more. The scene draws a crowd, including an Englishman who asks after Claire’s well-being. She says she’s fine, but as he retreats to a nearby barn, we see him put his red coat back on. (Was he working undercover? Or just offering some help at the farm? This point was a little unclear.)
NEXT: Penny for your thoughts