We gave it a B-
When last we saw our time-traveling heroine, she was in a brothel being held at knifepoint by a menacing stranger hell bent on doing her harm. It was a thriller of a cliffhanger, setting a tone that unfortunately couldn’t be sustained throughout the plodding “Créme de Menthe.”
But back to the tussle. This being Claire Fraser, she wouldn’t be going down without a fight. So fight she does, wresting the intruder’s blade away and turning it back on him. He conveniently trips and knocks his head on the stone hearth — to all appearances, a fatal blow. Yet, when Jamie returns to the room seconds later, the man begins gasping for air. And despite his attempts on her life, Dr. Claire can’t let him die, at least not without trying to save him. Jamie doesn’t quite understand, but he agree to help.
It turns out this man is John Barton, an exciseman sent at Sir Percival’s command. (You’ll recall Sir Percival as the man attempting to extort Jamie during the last episode.) The two have long had an agreement that Percival would look the other way at Jamie’s smuggling indiscretions. But it seems that earlier spat has rendered their agreement null, so Jamie instructs Fergus and Young Ian to clear all the casks out of Madame Jeanne’s basement — even if it means selling them at a loss. Young Ian is quite the negotiator, though, and persuades a man to buy the lot (with the addition of three casks of créme de menthe) for 75 pounds.
Claire, meanwhile, dresses and makes her way to the apothecary for the necessary roots and herbs needed to perform surgery on Barton. But just like every Duane Reade in New York City, there’s a line. Claire bargains with the man in front of her: If she can go first, she (a healer) will stop by his place later to administer to his ill sister. The man, Mr. Campbell, agrees, and Claire is filling her basket with the necessary supplies. Claire returns to the brothel to find Jamie and Mr. Willoughby unwisely pinning the exciseman to the bed. As she begins cutting into his scalp (yikes), an unwelcome visitor arrives in Madame Jeanne’s fornication foyer: Sir Percival.
He asks to search the premises, and Jamie and Jeanne tell him he’s free to do so. Of course, when he and his henchman descend the stairs, there’s nothing there — save a small puddle of liquid.
“We have a leak,” Madame Jeanne explains. “That’s why we can’t store anything of value down here.”
With Sir Percival stymied (at least for now), Jamie returns to his room to learn that Claire’s valiant efforts were all for naught. The exciseman has died. In that moment, it becomes clear that Claire is struggling to reconcile her 20th-century life as a gifted surgeon and her 18th-century life as a capable yet ill-equipped healer (a common theme in the show’s early episodes). She feels bad for failing Barton. And she feels bad for dropping back into Jamie’s life unannounced and causing such a mess.
“Sassenach, you came thousands of miles and 200 years to find me,” Jamie says. “I’m grateful you are here, no matter the cost. I will give up everything I have for us to be together again.” We’ll soon learn those words mean even more than Claire knows.
Given that the two have just reunited, Jamie is dubious about Claire paying a visit to the Campbells to tend to the ailing sister. He tries to send Fergus along, but Claire blanches. (Recap continues on next page)