TV Show Review

TV Review: OUTLANDER: Season 1, Episode 10: By the Pricking of My Thumbs [Starz]

Simon Callow Caitriona Balfe Outlander By the Pricking of My Thumbs

Starz’s Outlander By the Pricking of My Thumbs TV Show Review. Outlander: Season 1, Episode 10: By the Pricking of My Thumbs introduced two new elements into show, or rather brought one talked about element into the forefront while redefining and expanding upon another.

The often spoken of and referred to element was the Duke of Sandringham (Simon Callow), a person that didn’t try to hide his physical attraction to Jaime in the slightest. How homosexuality was dealt with in the 1740s in Scotland was admirable or perhaps, since the person who was homosexual had so much wealth, power, and influence, that is why it was found to be so salubrious.

Jaime handled Laoghaire’s advance in an extremely mature way, while his comrade showed his unease. Was it because Jamie knew it was coming, had been exposed to it since he was sixteen, or because there was so much at stake? I believe it was all three but for whatever reason, Jaime maintained his composure. Jaime and Duke of Sandringham’s levity and shared comradery before the three-on-one brawl bespoken of their old acquaintanceship (both were comfortable around the other).

The same could be said for Laoghaire MacKenzie (Nell Hudson), whose character was broaden significantly during this episode. Previously, Laoghaire had only been a peripheral character with a crush on Jaime. In By the Pricking of My Thumbs, she became a woman determined to get what she wanted, no matter the means. Like Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall before her, Laoghaire had become a villain in Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe)’s existence in 1743 Scotland by the end of By the Pricking of My Thumbs.

The inherent problem with Laoghaire’s scheming is that Claire will tell everything that Laoghaire has done or that Claire suspects Laoghaire of having done since Jaime left to Jaime. Even if Claire was sentenced to death or executed or banished, she’d make sure to “poison the well” and tell Jaime everything about Laoghaire, changing how he looked at Laoghaire and thought of her forever.

It’s obvious that Laoghaire hasn’t thought her plan through (and has severely underestimated Claire and her ability to improvise on the fly), unless she hopes Claire will be killed before she has time to verbally tell Jaime of her shenanigans or write him a letter. If Laoghaire can manage those two feats (Claire’s death and her not having time to write a letter), then she will be successful.

The ramifications of By the Pricking of My Thumbs‘ last two untimely deaths in Colum MacKenzie (Gary Lewis)’s chamber were surprising. It was wonderful theater to watch Dougal MacKenzie (Graham McTavish)’s face beam with happiness: his son, his would-be wife, and his new life staring at him and Colum snatching them all away. If the viewer didn’t respect aspects of Dougal’s character before his brow-beating, they did afterward. His restraint with his brother was incredible and showed how much he respected the office that his brother held.

At the end of By the Pricking of My Thumbs, when Claire went to see Geillis Duncan (Lotte Verbeek) and Geillis mentioned how Dougal would protect her, why didn’t Claire immediately tell Geillis that Colum MacKenzie had banished Dougal? This would have reinforced Claire’s declaration that Geillis should pack her things and run. It was strange that someone as intelligent as Claire would not use situational leverage when it presented itself.

My guess: the reason Claire didn’t mention ‘The Dougal Situation’ to Geillis was because of the episode’s writers and narrative strategy. If Claire had mentioned Dougal’s banishment, Geillis would have packed her things and left like Claire suggested. Then when the men came to arrest Geillis and found only Claire, they would have had no cause to arrest Claire (no collusion or conspiracy charge).

It was clever writing but completely transparent narrative manipulation. Making an established, intelligent character less intelligent in a scene or a situation to suit a narrative need is lazy writing and should be avoid e.g. the last three seasons of Dexter.

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About the author

Rollo Tomasi

A Political Science and MBA grad who started FilmBook during an eCommerce B-School course in 2008. Cinema and TV addict. Former writer at Empire Movies, Blogcritics, and Alternative Film Guide. In addition to writing for FilmBook, he also edits the copy published on the website, manages its writing staff, manages the back-end operations, site finances, its social network accounts, and works with publicists, actors, and companies on press coverage and promotions. He has also created and Trending

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