Outlander season 3, episode 7 recap and review: Creme De Menthe


Remember the ending of The Graduate? Well, add improvised neurosurgery, high treason, and some Scottish accents and you’ve got “Creme De Menthe.”

You can’t go to 18th century Scotland again. This is the lesson Claire and Jamie keep learning in the latest episode of Outlander. The excitement over finding each other has faded and the two never quite get on the same wavelength in “Creme De Menthe.” As Claire discovered when she returned to Frank, it’s impossible to simply pick up where you left off with someone after a separation, no matter how much you care about the other person.

The fact is that, though they look exactly the same, Claire and Jamie have become different people in the past two decades. And that serves as the undercurrent throughout the episode. They have forgotten how to be with each other. You can tell by their everyday conversations, like when Jamie seems genuinely surprised that Claire wants to move out of the brothel. And you can tell by the conversations they don’t have, such as the moment when Claire realizes that Jamie isn’t telling her the whole story about Young Ian and his parents.

In other words, “Creme De Menthe” is the emotional come-down from “A. Malcolm”. It’s, and I mean this in the best way possible, it’s basically a one-hour version of the ending of The Graduate.

Let’s delve further into Claire and Jamie’s “Creme De Menthe” disconnect.

Do no harm

This is the first episode this season that has felt like classic Outlander. I think it’s because we get to see Claire applying her 20th century knowledge to 18th century medical cases again. After the assailant from last week stumbles and hits his head, Claire performs brain surgery, despite Jamie’s recommendation that they let the man die. “Stubborn as always,” he says of his beloved. From Claire’s perspective, she has an obligation to help anyone in need of medical attention. Even if it’s someone who tried to harm her. “I’ve dedicated the last 14 years to respecting human life, to healing people without judgment,” she tells Jamie after her patient dies.

Jamie does seem to understand for a moment but is obviously baffled (even a little annoyed?) when Claire announces she has to go tend to another patient. He says it’s dangerous, that they know nothing about the patient or her family, but Jamie’s strained manner suggests his real problem is with Claire working. I could be wrong but that’s how I read the scene. In any case, the Jamie from 20 years ago definitely would not have stood in his wife’s way.

Perhaps, even though he is happy that she is back in his life, Jamie is just no longer used to women like Claire, women who make decisions for themselves and are unconcerned with what men think of them.

Fifty shades of deceit

As for Claire, she’s not used to Jamie being dishonest with his family. Jamie’s lie to Ian about Young Ian leads to “Creme De Menthe’s” most interesting conversation. When Claire calls out Jamie for lying, Jamie counters that she is being a hypocrite, reminding Claire that she constantly lies (due to the whole time travel thing) and that the two of them “lied [their] way through Paris.” Claire argues that she tells white lies to protect people from things they won’t be able to understand. “Oh, I didn’t realize lies had shades,” Jamie quips.

He has a point and Claire is definitely being condescending (although, in her defense, lying could protect her from potential witch-hunts), but what this fight actually reveals is that Claire and Jamie’s own moral codes have evolved since they last saw each other. Jamie has fewer qualms about lying, even to his own family and wife. It makes sense: he’s had to explain Claire’s whereabouts since Culloden and will never be allowed to publicly acknowledge his own son. Jamie can shrug off lying as just another “way of the world.” Claire, on the other hand, considers dishonesty a last resort. She lies when she has to to protect herself and her loved ones (like lying to Bree about her real father).

Claire’s view of lying is hypocritical and self-serving. Jamie’s is callous. The people they are in “Creme De Menthe” are a long way from the always-honest-with-each-other couple they were back in season 2. And I bet their opposing philosophies will collide in spectacular fashion when Claire finally finds out about Jamie’s other wife.

Claire the Myth v. Claire the Person

She sure is special, huh?

At least that’s what one of the “Creme De Menthe” runners is trying to communicate. In every other scene Jamie, Fergus, Young Ian, or Yi Tien Cho are discussing just how amazing Claire is. Fergus is particularly fond of her: he describes Claire as “a unique woman” and “spirited and incredibly brave.”  Their reverence for her is sweet, but also deeply problematic and likely one of the reasons Jamie is having a hard time emotionally reconnecting with his wife: they’re all idealizing Claire, the past version of her. And while it’s nice to have someone put you up on a pedestal, the fall back down to Earth can be pretty rough.

The episode’s mythologizing of Claire is actually an interesting connection to her comment about how “rigid” the 18th century is, how “a woman is either a Madonna or a whore.” The men around Claire are so busy building her up as this Wonder Woman-esque figure that they are forgetting that she’s a person, and are subtly pushing her away. It’s not as bad as labeling her a Madonna or the opposite, but the male characters of Outlander are still forcing her into a box. And we all know that’s the last place Claire Randall Fraser should be.

Next: Outlander S3E6 recap and review: A. Malcolm


  • Alias Watch: Yi Tien Cho calls Claire “Honorable Wife.” Like I mentioned above, the moniker is kind and respectful but also reinforces the limited mythology about Claire.
  • “It is a truly superior brandy.” Young Ian might have closed the deal with McDaniel, but Fergus is no slouch as a salesman, either.
  • Most Swoon-Worthy Line: “Since you left, I’ve been living in the shadows. And then you walked into the print shop, and it was as if the sun returned and cast out the darkness.”
  • I want Ronald D. Moore to develop a spinoff web series where Fergus dispenses dating advice. His three-pronged approach to “the art of seduction” works very well for Young Ian, after all.
  • Like his uncle Jamie, Young Ian is also attracted to confident women who are in full ownership of their sexuality. His infatuation with Brighid is pretty adorable.
  • Margaret Campbell, the mentally ill woman Claire treats, is heading to the West Indies with her brother, Archie. I have a feeling this won’t be the last we see of either of them.
  • Ian’s reaction to seeing Claire for the first time in 20 years is touching. Since Outlander hasn’t spent a whole lot of time at Lallybroch, I tend to forget how close Claire was with her in-laws before Culloden.
  • Between this week and “A. Malcolm,” Claire sure has called Jamie a traitor quite a bit. It’s not inaccurate, but Claire participated in the uprising and is technically a traitor, too. She shouldn’t throw stones in glass houses.
  • Jamie’s print shop burned down, so I guess we’re not getting any more of Geordie. Bummer.
  • The miniature portrait of Willie is the one object Jamie saves when he goes to rescue Young Ian from the fire.
  • I know that this is how TV shows cultivate drama. But, Jamie, WHY would you not tell Claire about your other wife when she asked you pointe-blank if you had fallen in love with someone else?! You could have easily replied with something like, “No, but I did have to get married [insert explanation here].”