Outlander, Season 1, Episode 14, “The Search”
Written by Matthew B. Roberts
Directed by Metin Hüseyin
Airs Saturdays at 9pm ET on Starz
“Love forces a person to choose,” Jenny tells Claire after she tortures a redcoat for information on Jamie. “You do things you never imagined you could do before.” This feels like an inarguable truism, and a kind of thematic basepoint for the episode (and, really, the series). It’s so effective because it is so cheesy on its surface, but is always treated with narrative respect and significance. Claire’s passion is absolutely believable, and she carries the weight of that love on her own this week. She certainly has some experience with love forcing some drastic decisions, not least of which was the choice to stay in this time period when she could’ve returned to Frank. She made that choice, and she has been dealing with the consequences since.
After last week’s middling break in the action, Outlander is back in full form this week, as Claire and Jenny go on their buddy-cop search for Jamie. The episode starts off with great momentum immediately, as Jenny walks up to her horse with a gun strapped to her dress, coming along with Claire because she knows she’ll be an asset—and that she can’t live with herself if she doesn’t come. They come across the group of redcoats that ambushed Jamie and the others, but don’t see him. Claire wonders whether they’ve killed him, for he is a headstrong Fraser after all. “True. But he’s not daft enough to fight with ten armed soldiers,” Jenny responds, and Claire’s perfect facial reaction says that both of them know he is exactly that daft.
Claire seems to be worried that she fits in more with this time and world than she would perhaps like to yet admit. After Jenny tortures the redcoat and says that he must now be killed because he knows too much about them and what they’re doing, she thinks Claire was judging her, and “there’s no room for sentiment like that here.” Claire knows this, has been adjusting to this, and appears to be realizing that she’s okay with it (at least when it comes to doing it for love). She says that if Murtagh hadn’t have shown up to kill him, she would’ve done it herself. She seems a little frightened by this, but also emboldened. The series doesn’t go so far as to make her do it just yet, but it would not at all be a surprise if that moment comes before the season ends.
Once Murtagh shows up, allowing Jenny to return home to her infant daughter (but not before Claire tells her to plant potatoes pre-famine! She is not careful about where she’s from, also telling Murtagh to “jazz up” his routine and mentioning telephones), the episode becomes something truly special. Murtagh proves to be a great comic foil to Claire (“This isn’t going to work.” “Not with that attitude it won’t!”), and inspires a glorious sequence of Claire becoming a renowned singer and performer as they try to gain as much attention as possible to draw the escaped Jamie to them. This feels a little ridiculous, especially in how quickly it happens, but it’s so amusing and well-executed that it doesn’t matter. Caitriona Balfe’s delivery of “Oh fuck” when she first gets pushed onstage in her Scottish drag to sing is enough to make the storyline worth it, but it also may the most plainly fun thing the series has done to date. It’s really something.
Claire also seems to despise doing it, for the most part, but it’s just another thing she’d never thought she’d do that she is now consistently doing because of her love for Jamie. She goes to all these lengths, as entertaining as they are, because she made that choice to stay, and this becomes the only thing that matters. She takes charge over whoever she’s dealing with, whether it be Murtagh or the gypsies, and she is unquestionably the hero trying to find (and then save) Jamie. Claire agrees to marry Dougal if she is unsuccessful in rescuing Jamie, which will never happen, but is still not the most comforting of thoughts, for her or the audience. That’s why the shot that ends the episode, as Claire, Murtagh, and a stray few Jamie sympathizers from Dougal’s men look on toward Wentworth Prison and look afraid but determined, is so fitting. Love makes you do things you never thought you’d be able to do before. And hopefully it doesn’t get you killed.