Another episode, another amazing costume for Claire!!
But first, let’s back up:
The episode begins with yet another chess match. This time, the men have let Claire out of the house and she is allowed to watch! What a treat for her! Not only is she bored (I assume), but she gets effing poisoned (though not a fatal poison or dose).
So, perhaps not really poisoned because, according to Claire, her symptoms suggested the nonfatal cascara; but, still, it’s not something that she should be ingesting. The suspicious Le Comte was lurking nearby during the incident, suggesting that he may be involved.
At least Jamie was able to carry Claire out of the library in a swoon-worthy fashion. I’m more impressed than usual with this masculine feat because not only is claire pregnant but she also has those huge panniers and a stiff corset. Like, how does she even bend? And what is he holding on to? How does her body actually fit with him despite the clothing?
She’s recovered at home, but still experiencing some discomfort, so Jamie distracts her with the most boring updates ever. Like, he could have done better, but she (after being chastised last week), she plays the good and supportive wife and listened gamely to Jamie’s nattering.
Jamie decides that he (they) should host a dinner for the Duke of Sandringham and the Prince in order to cause mischief and perhaps disrupt any potential funding that the Prince has secured from Sandringham. Jamie somehow thinks that an intentionally awful dinner party will enable the Duke to assess the Prince in close quarters. I don’t think that anything so rational would effect Sandringham, who seems to have enough money (and wiles) to simply spread his funds and influence around generously, sides or odds be damned. But they didn’t ask me. And, as any good soap opera knows, one must always jump at the chance to host a party for frenemies!
Claire finally realizes she must warn Jamie that Jack Randall is alive and, contrary to her fears, Jamie is thrilled because he now has a chance for vengeance, which he believes will help him heal.
Telling Jamie about Jack isn’t the only thing that had been weighing on Claire’s mind, though. With Jack’s (and Frank’s) survival on her mind, she ventures out to see her new bosom friend, Master Raymond.
While there, she is able to question him about who/when he is selling harmful potions like cascara (flashback to Geillis) and, furthermore, she decides to unburden herself in vague terms about her concern for a “friend” named Frank.
Luckily… Raymond has some knucklebones! And, luckily, Claire is familiar with the fortune-telling ritual. Luckily.
[PS- Whenever I say “luckily,” I think of Legally Blonde.]
Luckily/Unluckily, Raymond says that the bones indicate that Frank will be fine and Claire will see him again. This is not exactly the news she wanted. She wants him to be alive in the future, but that’s about as far as she is willing to go at this point in time.
Raymond also gifts Claire with a mood ring “magic stone” necklace that will change color and alert her if she is exposed to a poison. Not sure if you have to dip the stone into the food? Or somehow the poisonous air molecules will alter the stone? Who knows. Who cares. Magic or science… they’re equally inscrutable to me.
Claire then visits her gal pal Louise, who confesses some major gossip to Claire and asks for her medicinal help taking care of an unwanted pregnancy courtesy of her lover. After a bit advice from Claire, Louise decides that since she actually wants the baby, she should simply convince her husband the babe is his and precede with the pregnancy, despite any predicted qualms from her as yet unnamed lover.
“You mean sleep with my husband? But my lover would be furious!”
After such an eventful (?) day, Claire is all tucked into her bed when her surprisingly amorous (but drunk and smelly, as is his tendency of late). The potential lovemaking is brought to an abrupt stop pre-coitus when Claire spies a few bite marks on Jamie’s upper thighs.
Jamie begins with a poorly-articulated explanation as to why this is great news that he was tempted by a prostitute (who wanted to engage in a little“swasell neuf” or sixty-nine).
Because, yay for Jamie, he’s finally getting his groove back! But Claire, unsurprisingly, is not impressed. She, too, has been struggling! She’s pregnant and feeling very alone (they hadn’t even discussed baby names until DuVernay awkwardly brought it up at the start of the episode).
Caitriona Balfe interpreted her character’s mental state at this time in the following way, as quoted in an interview with The Daily Beast: “You see Claire really struggle because she understands what he’s gone through and has so much sympathy…[but] at what should be this most joyous time of her life, being pregnant, she’s not getting to experience that or share that with anyone… It’s a very lonely time for Claire.”
They finally begin to discuss/argue about the elephant in the room (You don’t understand! No, you don’t understand me! Etc.) and Jamie finally offers a beautiful and evocative description of his feelings over the past few weeks/months (not quite clear on the passage of time in Paris).
“There was this place inside me. A place I think everyone has that they keep to themselves. A fortress. Where the most private part of you lives. Maybe it’s your soul. The bit that makes you yourself and not anyone else. But after Wentworth, it was like my fortress was blown apart. The thing that once lived there was exposed in the open without shelter. That’s where I’ve been ever since. Naked. Alone. Trying to hide under a blade of grass.“
He exits without any resolution, but our intrepid heroine seeks him out, bares her beautiful and rounded body, and finally makes love with Jamie. It’s a really beautiful thing. I loved how feminine and pregnant she appeared as she rode him. She looked like a fertility goddess, and if that can’t (at least momentarily) erase the echoes of Randall, then nothing can, IMO.
With Melisandre uncovered on GoT and now this, it’s been a banner week for depictions of naked women on television! Like, seriously! How wonderful?!
This was an important scene for the actors, as well, as they have spoken about it in the press. Balfe remarked on her and Sam’s opinions about sex in Season 2: “We felt like it was important to wait and to push that for as long as we could… It can’t be easy for them. You can’t just forget about [Jaime’s rape].” And as many have commented, it is unusual for a show—particularly one that has a sexual male lead and central romance like this—to really delve into male sexual assault and PTSD.
In a similar interview given to Vanity Fair, Balfe expanded on this sex scene and her and Sam’s feelings about it, and how that worked with both Diana Gabaldon’s ideas and Ron’s approach:
“Sam and I, we kind of fought to keep the belly… I think originally they were just a little bit like, ‘Maybe nobody wants to see that.’ But—especially because their intimacy has been so disrupted—it was so important to us to show that this is their safe place. Diana had written me the most beautiful email about pregnancy. She was so honest and so articulately beautiful about the process. The good things and the bad things. We talked about how sexual pregnant women feel and how that can be such a strong feeling, and to relegate that and to not use it I thought would have been a real disservice to the journey of this couple.”
In the scene, Claire makes a reference to the soul-barring speech Jamie had given earlier (in which he explained that he has felt so incredibly exposed and naked and alone), and Claire calls out to him mid-coitus, “Find me, Jamie. Find us.” It’s pretty great.
As the episode’s writer Toni Graphia explained in an article with Vulture, “The idea is that they’re doing it in complete darkness,” Graphia said. “When she closes the door [to the parlor] and climbs in there [on the daybed] with him…Claire is basically saying, ‘If we take out all the distractions, and it’s just you and me in this little space in the dark, we don’t even have to try.” I’d add that it’s not just the two of them, but also their unborn baby, as Claire places Jamie’s hand on her belly. I think it’s the idea of family and connection that seem to help Jamie remain present.
Never one to waste a good metaphor, Jamie picks up the thread of his “naked hiding behind a blade of grass” thing and reflects after their sexual reunion: “Remember I told you I was lost. You’ve built me a lean-to. With a good roof to keep out the rain.” Surprisingly romantic? Idk.
Also, check the little nook they’re in! It’s so amazing. I would nap real hard in there. And hide from reality. Basically, it’d be heaven.
While they’re enjoying some snuggles, they hear an intruder, but it’s only the Prince, who had escaped from his lover’s room out the window and onto the roof for fear of being caught by his lover’s husband. Cue realization: the Prince is having an affair with Louise and they’re expecting a baby, but the Prince doesn’t know!
Deciding to use their drama for their own gain, they decide that they will out the pregnancy in front of the Prince (and the Duke) at their much heralded dinner party. I’m sure the party will go off without a hitch, said no one.
The day of this all-important dinner party saw Claire slaving over the preparations… wait, wait, wait, no! This is Claire mothafuckin Fraser! She who will not be deterred from nursing! Nurses gotta nurse, man. She has to run off to the hospital because of some drama and promises to return in time for the guests.
Cue another gruesome medical scene. More importantly, we get to watch Murtagh and Fergus bond. They are hilarious, as recapper Connie Verzak rightly points out in her subtitled reviews.
Fergus, having been raised in a brothel (and being French), is much more knowledgable about love and sex and human nature. He schools Murtagh, to all of our delight.
Of course, they’re late leaving. And, of course, their carriage has been tampered with (which we briefly glimpsed in the preview credits) and is of no use. So, Claire, always with the good ideas when questions of feminine etiquette and female safety are concerned, orders that the group (including young Mary Hawkins) walk home. Naturally, this ends poorly.
They send Fergus home first to warn Jamie, who will no doubt be pleased that Claire is once again out of the house and not by his side when he needs her.
Meanwhile, the guests are arriving, and Jamie has to welcome them all by his lonesome. Luckily, he looks beautiful.
The Duke of Sandringham, ever the sneaky one, blithely invites two extra uninvited guests to the dinner party, one of whom is Le Comte. What dastardly plan is this?!
Our trio of Murtagh, Claire, and Mary Hawkins are walking and talking and Mary is sharing with Claire that she is in love with someone who is not her fiancé, and she seems content, despite the difficulties.
But, alas, they are jumped by several masked brigands in an isolated alleyway. Murtagh is knocked out and Claire is restrained, though fighting. Mary is quickly subdued and violently raped. Claire, however, is saved as one of the men seems to recognize her and refers to her as la dame blanche—hence the episode title.
Claire as la dame blanche is seemingly representative of several different folktales concerning witchy women, enticing women, prophetic women, fairies, and the like. In Normandy, the dames blanches or white ladies were fairies or natural spirits that were beautiful but resulted in harming people (Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology, 1969). In some Germanic folklore, women dressed in white who possessed the gift of prophecy and roamed in certain parts of the wild were Witte Wieven (Pantheon Encyclopedia Mythica). So, anyways, once one names her “la dame blanche,” some of the group get scared and run off, ultimately leading to the entire gang leaving.
It was pretty abrupt and physical and our first sexual assault of the season (that sounds bad, but you know what I mean). I’m sure opinions will be divided, as there is some chatter about gratuitous sexual violence on some of these shows, but I still think this holds true to the plot and world of Outlander.
Plus, Outlander is always committed to airing the aftermath of assault. Whether it was Claire’s and Jamie’s inability to communicate after her brief assault way back in the first season, or, obviously, Jamie’s continued issues after Randall, while rape and violence are somewhat regular in this world, consequences are, as well.
They make it home, and Claire urges Jamie to soldier on with their dinner plans, and simply urges little bro Alex Randall (who we have learned is in love with Mary, despite her being promised to another), to watch over Mary while she dines and make sure Mary stays asleep and calm with some drugs until Claire returns to take care of her. Upon waking briefly, and despite the fact that her amour is present and caring for her, she freaks out when she wakes up in an unknown place with a man nearby (or, perhaps, she is hallucinating).
She runs away, yelling, and fights against Alex. Rather than run immediately to another male savior, she is understandably frightened by a man and only calms when she recognizes Claire and clings to her. This made sense to me.
But before Mary freaks out, Claire rallies, changes her outfit, and walks into the room like a BOSS, unfazed by anything.
Dinner appears sumptuous to the viewer, but tension abounds. The Prince is awkward with his lover and her husband, and that’s before he finds out she is pregnant.
It gets worse from there. The Prince also clashes with Sandringham over the sanctity of Catholicism. At the other end of the table, Claire and Le Comte St. Germain exchange cutting but veiled remarks about poison.
Why so sensual, St. Germain?
So, back to Mary, she runs screaming downstairs in her nightgown. The dinner party spills out of the dining room and comes across a scene easily misunderstood as Alex Randall is attempting to restrain a terrified and crazed Mary. Mary’s intended and male relations are pissed and a fight breaks out.
BFFs Jamie and Murtagh get to do some fun choreographed fighting (with an assist from Claire) to subdue Mary’s relations, while the other guests look on askance.
The Duke pulls one of his patented ghosting exits and the Prince and Le Comte St. Germain seem to bond and are seen exiting together.
Plans = awry.
Except for Fergus, who gleefully sits alone at the now-abandoned feast and decides to do his worst. Go Fergus! Live the life.
(Again) Here are my favorite Outlander recaps and sites, for your edification and procrastination.
For the longest, most detailed, most descriptive, literally play-by-play, fandom review, check Outlander TV News.
For Roxane Gay’s recaps with her (bad) feminist bent and tempered appreciation of the show (without having read the books, I believe), check her recaps on Wired. Here’s a few quotes from her recap for this episode, to give you a taste. I didn’t really agree with her take on this episode, but it’s interesting to note.
“Outlander, though, seems truly hellbent on demonstrating the infinite nature of suffering, and I wonder if it’s becoming too much… There’s no reason to be uncivil: advice Outlander doesn’t seem interested in heeding. Certainly, the show is trying to not only consider the source material but convey what life was like during the 18th century; still, to see yet another character subjected to sexual violence leads me to wonder if the show’s writers are capable of telling a story without violence at its center. It’s a shame, because this is not an unsophisticated show. Jamie’s recovery, still handled with such sensitivity and care, demonstrates that. But each time a new sexual assault is introduced, the show comes ever closer to undoing the groundbreaking and important work it’s done to depict the realities of trauma. That is the most uncivil thing of all.”
Then, as I’ve linked to before, there are the funny and insightful recaps from Connie Verzak (who has read the books, so occasionally has asides related to book versus show narrative). She adds some clever captions to the screen caps, and I’ve used a few of them.
There’s also the solid standbys that are posted to Jezebel’s The Muse by Kelly Faircloth.
I also like the reviewer over at A.V. Club.
Oh, and finally, here are some great tumblrs!