Except maybe Mrs. Fitz. (Maybe she's scheming to be the least scheme-y?) But seriously, it seems as though everyone is plotting for one reason or another, and we start to see some schemes bear fruit in this episode...unfortunately for Claire.
OK, let's count 'em up:
- Colum is scheming to get information from the Duke.
- Dougal is scheming to get with Geillis.
- Geillis is scheming to get with Dougal.
- Jamie is scheming to get the Duke to accept his case.
- Claire is scheming to blackmail the Duke into accepting Jamie's case.
- Leoghaire is scheming to get Claire out of the way - to free Jamie from her clutches!
Although, I'm doubtful about Dougal. He seemed so genuinely torn up about his wife passing; they had to knock him out with a sedative! (BTW Angus, you're not supposed to know what that is! Maybe he just thinks it's really strong liquor.) It's strange that a day or two later, he would be exchanging satisfacted smiles with Geillis over her husband's dead body.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. There are about 563 things going on in this episode, but they all revolve around the arrival of and meetings with the Duke of Sandringham (played perfectly foppishly by Simon Callow).
After last week, Jamie appears determined to be the best husband ever. And then, after the Duke of Sandringham arrives, he plans to do everything he can to get pardoned. (He really wants to go home to Lallybroch! Have you picked up on that yet?) Jamie, Murtagh, and Ned Gowan decide to draw up charges against Black Jack Randall. If Jamie can convince the Duke to present his petition in London, then they can maybe get Black Jack court-martialed and out of Scotland for good. But, they have to make the Duke believe that Black Jack is more a liability than an asset.
Claire signs the petition (which feels like a big deal - Claire signing a formal document in the 1700s with the last name Fraser), and, hoping to leave little to chance, secretly goes to see the Duke herself before Jamie's visit. She uses information from Frank (well hi, flashback Tobias Menzies!) that the Duke is a suspected Jacobite to threaten him into taking up Jamie's petition. She and the Duke exchange pleasantries and threats, then go on their merry ways.
Jamie then visits and secures the Duke's support by promising to be his second in a duel against another clan, the MacDonalds. After the most anticlimactic (but perhaps most realistic?) duel ever, Jamie gets in a scuffle with some members of the MacDonald clan present. He gets wounded, and I remember thinking, "wow, look, he's hurt, and he actually fights like it's hindering him." But he fights the three guys off, and the Duke takes his petition. (Literally taking it out of Jamie's sporran as he's lying on the ground bleeding.)
Aside from the business with the Duke, Claire seems content to be hanging out at Castle Leoch for the time being. Fortunately, we finally get a Claire vs. Leoghaire showdown, because Claire will damn well confront you if you're trying to mess with her. And we get a cathartic Slap Heard Round Leoch after Leoghaire takes a dig at Claire. (And maybe the first #sorrynotsorry in history?) Claire claims Jamie as hers, further enforcing to Leoghaire that she must free Jamie from Claire's English clutches. I hope this gets gif'd like the Tyrion-Joffrey slap from Game of Thrones.
In the 500th thing happening this episode, we join Geillis as she is performing some sort of summoning. (It's un-screen-cap-able. Surely the powers of Satan at work.) We find out that she's pregnant (!) by Dougal (!!!) and then she and Claire hear a baby crying. Claire is determined to help it, but Geillis warns that she shouldn't interfere. People whose children are sickly believe the children are changelings, fairy babies left in place of their actual child, whom the fairies have taken away. If they leave the child out on a fairy hill, the fairies will either switch the babies back, or...well, we see the 'or' as Claire finds the baby dead in the hollow of a tree. Again, Claire's modern beliefs at war with the local superstition.
Jamie finds Claire and points out that it's not his or her beliefs that matter, but rather those of the villagers (like the child's parents). As Geillis said in a previous episode, Claire challenges those beliefs at her peril.
After Geillis' summoning, Dougal's wife dies, and then, at the banquet for the Duke, Geillis' husband, the long suffering procurator fiscal, chokes to death. (Claire susses out that Geillis poisoned him with cyanide.) As the man thrashes on the floor, Geillis and Dougal exchange a look, which Colum picks up on. Colum decides to send Dougal - and Jamie, after his scuffle with the MacDonalds - away, while Claire must stay at Leoch to guarantee Jamie's obedience.
After the men leave Leoch, Claire gets a note from Geillis asking her to visit - except it's not from Geillis, it's a fake, written by Leoghaire to ensure that Claire is at Geillis' when some men come by to take Geillis into custody.
We end with Claire being carted off with Geillis to the "thieves' hole" - we just know that is not a happy place - staring out through the cart's tiny window at Leoghaire's smug little face smiling back at her. Next week: The trial of Claire and Geillis. Can Claire talk her way free? She's not so good at pretending to believe something she doesn't believe. What about Jamie? Last time Claire was held captive, Jamie showed up at the last minute to save her. Can we hope for a repeat performance?
"Truth and lies have very little to do with the law." - Ned Gowan
"You have the most marvelous neck. It holds your head so prettily. I would hate to see them parted." - Duke of Sandringham
"I said kiss her, dinna swallow her." - Dougal MacKenzie
Obligatory Beautiful Shot of Scotland: