After “Faith” viewers were probably looking for an episode that didn’t contain quite as much despair and misery. Outlander gave viewers the respite they were looking for with “The Fox’s Lair.” Although “The Fox’s Lair” did contain threats of rape and execution, no one was actually attacked in this episode aside from Lord Lovat‘s seer, Maisri, and that was just yer run-o-the-mill servant whooping. It seems that, unsurprisingly, Fergus may have abandonment issues. And, still very much in love with him, Laoghaire MacKenzie craves forgiveness from Jamie after having accused Claire of practicing witchcraft in Season One. Get thee to a recap …
“The Fox’s Lair” – My Recap
The Frasers are back in Scotland! Gone are Claire’s outrageously large bustles and low-cut necklines, exchanged for slightly smaller bustles and necklines that are more suited to Scotland’s cold and damp climate. The Lord and Lady, and Fergus, get a much-needed pastoral rest at Lallybroch: Jenny and Ian have a new baby and Jamie, likely compensating for the loss of his daughter, puts in some time with the little tyke one night when no one can sleep.
Jamie curses when he receives a letter from Charles Stuart on which he finds his signature forged in support of the Pretender to the throne. Stuart, having widely circulated this letter, has effectively named Jamie publicly as a traitor to the British crown (you knew his pardon wouldn’t last). Claire suggests they ride out the rebellion in Ireland but Jamie won’t have it. He knows that his tenants, not to mention his beloved highlands, will suffer at either the hands of the Brits or the Scots if he flees. Jamie, with really no other options left to him, decides to make a stand with Stuart: he’ll gather men to fight in Stuart’s rebellion.
In order to amass troops, Jamie must pay a visit to his grandfather, Lord Simon Fraser of Lovat. Lord Lovat, Jamie reveals, is Jamie and Jenny’s grandfather by way of an illicit union with one of his maids. This makes Jamie the son of a bastard who has no honourable claim to anything of Lord Lovat’s. It also means that Lord Lovat views Jamie as competition rather than as an heir. Jamie fears that due to the older man’s lecherous and greedy nature it won’t help to make appeals to Lord Lovat’s domestic side: his loyalty and the loyalty of his men come at a price.
All that being said, Jamie still believes that the only way to try to avoid the death of Highland culture is to fight with the Jacobites and win, thereby altering history. So, he’s forced to make a trip to his grandfather’s estate to sue for his help. The Frasers leave Fergus in the capable hands of Murtagh and start out on their trip to meet one of the worst grandparents in history. Once they arrive, they’re greeted by Colum MacKenzie who’s also come on business. Only his business is to convince Lord Lovat to sign a neutrality pact with him that will keep both of their clans out of the rebellion. He assures Claire that he had nothing to do with trying her as a witch and that the servant who was responsible has been beaten (ah, good!). Then, in bursts Lord Lovat who calls Claire a sassenach, and not in an endearing way like Jamie does. The elder Fraser, misogynist at large, orders Claire out of the room so that the men can talk politics.
While Jamie and his relatives talk rebellion, Claire runs into Laoghaire seeking to absolve herself of her sins against the Frasers, she was the servant who accused Claire of practicing witchcraft. Claire says she doesn’t hate her, she pities her (snap!), and storms away while Laoghaire weeps. Claire also runs into Maisri, Lord Lovat’s seer. She witnesses Maisri get tossed bodily out of Lord Lovat’s room and hear him yell at her for withholding information.
The men’s meeting over, Claire asks Jamie if his grandad will allow her to dinner. Jamie explains that Lord Lovat will allow it if she’s seen and not heard. At dinner Jamie tries to convince Lord Lovat of the righteousness of the Jacobite rebellion, Colum strategically undermines Jamie in an effort to convince Lord Lovat of the need for neutrality. It also becomes obvious during dinner that there’s some tension between Lord Lovat and his legitimate heir, young Simon. Simon, an angry young man who’s sick of the British, voices his support of the Jacobite cause but Lord Lovat shoots him down.
Claire remarks on Simon’s public humiliation at his father’s hands but Jamie assures her that the elder Simon is only trying to toughen his son up. They also suspect that Lord Lovat, greedy as he is, is pitting Jamie and Colum against each other in an attempt to get something from somebody. Jamie’s suspicions are confirmed when Lord Lovat later offers to pledge his men to the Jacobite cause in exchange for either the deed to Lallybroch or a night with Claire. A very theatrical Jamie, illustrating his point by throwing a bottle of alcohol in his grandfather’s fire, explains to Lord Lovat that Claire is a white witch and threatens that any man attempting to rape Claire will have his genitals frozen off and his soul will burn forever … in Hell!
Lord Lovat’s offer on the table, Jamie and Claire regroup. Their new plan of attack is to play matchmakers and use Laoghaire to bolster Simon’s confidence, the young lord having made some pretty obvious eyes at Laoghaire over dinner. With a little female encouragement, they think, Simon will stand up to his father and convince him to pledge his men to Charles Stuart. Claire, using Jamie’s forgiveness as bait, entices Laoghaire to pay some attention to Simon.
Claire and Simon set out for a walk to the chapel and who should be lurking behind a large tree picking mushrooms but Laoghaire? Claire makes up an excuse to leave the two saying that she’d like to be alone in the chapel, and Simon makes an awkward attempt at reciting poetry. In the chapel Claire comes upon Maisri who tells Claire that she saw a vision of Lord Lovat’s execution by axe but didn’t tell him in order to avoid worse treatment. Laoghaire interrupts the witches’ exchange by telling Claire that Simon ran off after she let him peek down the top of her dress (he’ll remember to use that poem again!).
Colum begs Jamie to give up on the Jacobite cause, trying to convince him that Lallybroch is worth more than a few of Lord Lovat’s men. Jamie only promises to try to protect the things that they both hold dear.
That night Lord Lovat holds a meeting where he presents two documents, one that legally transfers ownership of Lallybroch from Jamie to him and the other a neutrality contract between him and Colum that will keep both clans out of the rebellion. Jamie, out of options, is about to sign when Claire fakes a vision, repeating what she heard Maisri tell her in the chapel, adding an embellishment of her own that implies that Lord Lovat will be executed by the house of Stuart. As Maisri predicted, Lord Lovat strikes out at Claire with a dagger but is stopped mid-stab by young Simon who reiterates his support of the Jacobite cause.
In what appears to be a show of machismo, Lord Lovat signs the pact of neutrality with Colum and everybody drinks. The next day, after a meaningful goodbye to Colum, Jamie and Claire leave the Fox’s lair with the Fox’s heir in tow. Jamie is concerned about what he’ll be able to bring to Stuart’s rebellion, but as the trio of Frasers come upon a hill they see a line of Scotsmen at its summit. Lord Lovat rides down to greet them and explains that with the neutrality pact signed he won’t have to fear repercussions from the British should they stamp out the rebellion. But, he has no problem sending some of his men off to follow his son in a cause he believes in. Jamie reminds Lord Lovat that he still doesn’t have Lallybroch but, as his grandfather reminds him, there’s still time for that.
“The Fox’s Lair” – My Critique
Like I implied earlier, “The Fox’s Lair” represents a rare win for the Frasers and comes after a long line of losses. I knew that Jamie wouldn’t give the OK for his grandad to have his way with Claire but I didn’t know whether or not Jamie would give up Lallybroch. I thought that Claire’s faked vision was a natural solution to the problem at hand: if she’s already been outed as a “witch” then why not push the envelope, especially if Lord Lovat is known to be superstitious?
The ending to “The Fox’s Lair” could’ve only come in the episode after the heartstring-pulling episode “Faith.” If Faith had been born healthy or the Frasers had experienced other recent wins, Lord Lovat’s provision of men in “The Fox’s Lair” would’ve seemed unreasonably kind, perverted codger that he is.