This was not a good episode. “The Search” was aptly named, since the first forty-five minutes were all about finding Jamie, but it just spun its wheels. The only good thing about it was the the fact that I’ve been singing the “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” ever since it aired.
“The Search” is a complete conundrum — it both feels like it’s including a ton of stuff just because it was in the book and it drags. This is an adaptation, but, seriously, the paperback’s over 800 pages long. The show’s only got sixteen episodes to cover the same ground. A lot of Claire’s search could have been cut.
We start with Claire and Jenny heading out to find out where Jamie is. Remember that Jenny just gave birth, like, a few hours ago. She even stops to pump some breast milk on her way to torture a redcoat. She’s a total badass.
Also, she totally tells Claire that they have to kill the redcoat they found, or he’ll send up an alarm. Which isn’t the nicest thing on earth, but is fairly practical. The argument becomes moot when Murtagh appears out of nowhere to do the hob for them. So Jenny goes home, ending a truly awesome female partnership.
Before Jenny goes, one of the good parts of the episode happens: Claire tells Jenny to invest in potatoes and to sell off any unprofitable land. There’s famine and war coming, says Claire, so get ready. This is the first time Claire’s made the leap to meddle in past events, in a way that feels like it could actually do some good. And she does it for her husband’s home and her family. All great, wish we could have spent some more time on it.
Instead, thirty minutes of Claire and Murtagh searching for Jamie by making Claire’s name and likeness travel so that Jamie can find them. Because ... the show doesn’t quite make clear why Claire and Murtagh believe this. And when giving Claire a reputation as a healer and fortune teller doesn’t get the word spreading fast enough, there’s a new plan: Singing!
The part where Claire sings “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” (the go-to song for World War II fiction) is a great touch. The endless montage of Claire, dressed in men’s clothing, performing bawdy lyrics as the stage sensation “The Sassenach” was less interesting. As was the entirety of the “Gypsy” plot — which was upsetting on every possible level, from the stereotyping to the utter uselessness of it. Who ever thought that what this show was missing was a conflict about intellectual property? Although, I will admit breaking it down like it was an essay question on one of my old law school finals. “Petunia has traveled back in time and, to make money, is performing a song with new words to the tune of a song from her time. She finds out that David has taken her persona and song and is performing it for his own money. Identify every possible cause of action and defense that might be raised and evaluate their chances.”
Instead of finding Jamie, they find Dougal. Who, fresh off the death of both his wife and his lover (who was pregnant with his child when she was burned at the stake), has decided that Claire should marry him. You know, for protection. Also, so that he gets Lallybroch once the British, who have Jamie in prison, hang Jamie.
Claire’s rightfully angry at him. She and Dougal do strike a deal, though: Anyone who wants to go with her to spring Jamie will be allowed to go — Dougal won’t send unwilling men to almost certain death — and, if that fails, Claire will marry Dougal.
This whole episode could have benefitted from skipping ahead to Dougal finding Claire, telling her where Jamie was, and then giving them a lot more time to tease out his motivations for everything. And maybe then spent time watching everyone gear up and plan for the action-packed finale episodes we have coming.
We could have also spent more time with Jenny and Claire at the beginning. And more time establishing the twist that Murtagh loved Jamie’s mother, and therefore sees Jamie as a son. All of that instead of the singing and the fairly awful “gypsy” bit. If the show had proved Murtagh’s shitty prejudice incorrect, that would have been much better than him being like “They’re not going to stop, because they’re untrustworthy” and then having them show up and say “We didn’t keep our word! LOL!” It was very bad and totally unnecessary.
All that said, dollars to donuts we have a tension- and action-filled episode coming next week.
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