This episode picked up right after the closing scenes from the previous episode—that eventful/disastrous dinner party. We soon learn Claire is waiting up for Jamie to return after being hauled to Bastille amidst the chaos of the brawl.
We get a cute moment between Jamie and Claire when he returns in the morning to see that Claire had waited up for him, and little Fergus had only recently fallen asleep waiting, as well. Jamie picks him and cradles him, telling him that he did a good “guarding his mistress.” It’s a nice image of what they’d be like as parents, or will be like as parents, as they share a brief affectionate moment before carrying their child to his bed.
Claire and Jamie recap in their bedroom and speculate as to the fall out of their party—what to do about Alex Randall, who’s stuck in Bastille for allegedly assaulting Mary; whether or not Sandringham would have changed his mind about the Prince; what went down with the Prince and the Comte when they left together.
Then they start discussing the attack in more detail. She explains that the men were well-dressed and well-spoken, which suggests clues about their class. She explains that the only reason they got away is that they mistook her for some “mythical creature” known as “La Dame Blanche,” which Fergus explained to her as some sort of sorceress nonsense. At this point, Jamie immediately looks guilty and moves away from her.
She asks if she’s heard of this, and he hedges that “I may have once mentioned that…” and then he rushes out his confession, “…that I was married to La Dame Blanche.”
Claire is like, da fuk?! And he’s all puppy dog eyes, tail between his legs, like, I was at da club tryin’ to protect my rep’ in front of the Prince, you know, because we need him and there’s literally no other excuse for why I wouldn’t cheat on my wife!!! Well, actually he said: “Charles was pushing more trollops into my lap. I wanted to stay true to you, but not appear unmanly,” which isn’t that much better.
Claire is incredulous. Jamie is not being a woke bae! And, as she points out, this might be playing with fire (pun intended) after the whole Cranesmuir witch trial debacle.
In terms of this marital squabble, I’m sort of Team Claire because he obviously doesn’t need to impress the Prince and there could have been a better way to abstain from extramarital sex. But, still, pulling the “I’m worried about my witchy reputation” card with Jamie at this point is a little like the cauldron calling the kettle black; In fact, Claire pretty much goes out of her way to ensure that everyone, from maids to aristocrats, think she is suspiciously knowledgable and interested in medicine and outspoken AKA a suspicious
bitchy witchy woman in most men’s eyes!
Jamie (Foxx) uses a classic excuse and blames it on the a-a-a-a-alcohol and explains to Claire, “Now, there may have been a fair amount of drinking involved.” Wise words, Jamie. We’ve all been there. I’m fairly certain 50% of what I say at a bar is untrue and sometimes it’s closer to 90% with strangers?
Despite Jamie assuring her that only a few people could have heard him, he concedes that “it was a good bit of gossip to share.” Can’t you just picture all those chatty aristocrats: “Oh, Marie, did you hear?! Jamie said the most awwwwwful thing, though I’m sure he didn’t mean it. I won’t even dignify it by repeating it. I mean, I’m not someone to spread gossip about someone being a… witch.” “Noooo!!! Oh, Claire. Well, she’s always saying the oddest things, bless her heart.” Or something.
But, silver lining, this might actually help them narrow down the suspect pool as to who attacked them in the streets because the rumor originated at the upscale brothel.
Luckily, they still seem cool and Jamie’s not really in trouble. Phew!
We get a brief exchange between Murtagh and Jamie during which they discuss potential leads as to the masked perpetrators—possibly members of an upper class gang called ‘Les Disciples’ with a virgin as the entry fee—and whether or not, or to what degree, they were connected to St. Germain.
This man to man talk is also an opportunity for Murtagh to try to deal with his own masculinity issues following the attack. So often, depictions of rape and assault against women on television/film are presented or interpreted through another men’s reactions, rather than focusing primarily on the female victims/survivors. Thus, it’s often a chance for a man to wrestle with his own nature (despite the fact that he was not directly involved) and, hopefully, seek masculine redemption in his (and our) eyes. [Check out Sonia Saraiya’s article on Salon, “The truth about TV’s rape obsession: How we struggle with the broken myths of masculinity, on screen and off.”*] Luckily, Outlander doesn’t do that too much, or at the expense of a focus on other issues with rape, as we’ve seen multiple times. Sooo, Murtagh is mostly just sweet (I’m in love with him this season) in expressing his regrets. Though, he does so to Jamie, which represents the common idea that the men are responsible for or in charge of the women and children in their household. Patriarchy, yo.
*[Though, tbh, there’s been a whole helluva lot written about rape on television, the “golden age of rape,” and the “rape glut”—see here, here, here, here, here, and here—and I’m not going to get into it here. Maybe in another post. But there are some fascinating articles!! Check those links to start.]
Mostly, though… Whatevs. I just want to touch your beard, Murtagh.
Meanwhile, Claire goes to visit Mary and check in on her state of mind and body. It’s very touching at first.
Mary is finishing a letter to exonerate Alex and asks Claire to deliver it, to ensure that Alex is released because he is a good man. Claire agrees.
Claire asks how Mary is doing, how she is feeling, and Mary admits that she is feeling ashamed, and like she’ll never be the same person. Claire understands, but assures her it wasn’t her fault.
This is a nice moment of seemingly strong female friendship… but, alas, friendship will go by the wayside in the face of ensuring Frank’s lineage.
After Claire assures her she won’t get pregnant from the attack (and provides some mysterious herbs… and wonders why people think she’s a witch…), Mary admits that there is one upside to all of this: she won’t have to marry her betrothed since he won’t want a “soiled” bride. At first Claire is all kindness and reassurance, telling Mary that she’s “far too pretty, not to mention sweet, to marry such a warty old man.” On the surface, that sounds super nice of Claire and tots true! But then we remember what Claire is hoping…
It’s clear that Claire believes that Mary deserves better, but she also is doing everything she can to ensure that Mary ends up with Jack Randall, who is undoubtedly far worse than a mere “warty old man.” So, yes, this is a clear example of Claire’s cognitive dissonance.
Mary, however, is more convinced than ever that she can marry Alex Randall and resiliently looks at this as the silver lining to her attack. Unfortunately, Mary’s conviction that she and Alex Randall will soon wed only serves to rattle Claire even more as she grapples with Frank’s fate from afar.
After briefly considering destroying the letter, and leaving Alex to his fate, Claire can’t go that far and so she ensures that the letter is delivered and Alex released.
But, Claire can’t quite leave it alone… This is part of the big issue a lot of people had with this episode: Claire’s selfish meddling in the service of trying to ensure Frank’s future life.
Meanwhile, Jamie’s BFF the Prince has showed up, unannounced, as usual.
As a result of the disastrous dinner party—after which Sandringham pulled away from the Prince and the Prince left the dinner party with St. Germain—the Prince informs Jamie that he has brokered a deal with St. Germain (can’t remember the details…trade…blahblah) that will help him.
And, of course, the Prince is depending on Jamie’s assistance. Jamie and the Comte will have to work together. Jamie tries to offer some weak objections, but the Prince pooh-poohs them away, pointing out that not all rumors are true—like that rumor about Claire being La Dame Blanche. Way to go Jamie! Jamie will have to appear to help.
So, Jamie and St. Germain meet at the
office brothel for an awkward and tense tête-à-tête regarding their future business endeavor with the Prince. The Comte brings up the old business with Claire ruining his prior shipment, which leads to Jamie bringing up what recently happened to Claire (and Mary).
Wine was drunk. Threats were leveled. Smirks were exchanged.
But to return to our flawed heroine and this episode’s Most Hated…
There’s been quite a bit of Claire-hate after this one, which might have ultimately affected my current position on Claire this episode. Because I had time to let things percolate and take in other reviews, I can’t help but feel like Claire has been unfairly painted, as Roxane Gay’s recap on the Wired is titled, “Claire is the most selfish person of all time.” Hyperbole? Idk, but pretty much all of the recaps and reviews I read called Claire out to varying degrees for this (and for her related behavior later in the episode). So, Claire ensures Alex is released from the Bastille (+1 for Claire’s karma), but then discourages him from following his heart and marrying Mary (-100 for Claire’s karma).
Basically, Claire convinces Alex (in the guise of friendship and concern) to leave Mary alone, for her own good—or, in her view, for Frank’s own good (who, she believes, depends on Mary conceiving with and marrying Jack Randall). She’s all, “I’m worried for her well-being… You have to think of what’s best for Mary.”
So, yeah, after her enacting the role of friend, confidante, etc., with Mary, she effectively manipulates Mary and Alex and destroys the only future that they really wanted. Yeah, that was not cool, Claire. And Mary just keeps getting trampled over! And Alex, too, for that matter.
Ever the gentleman, he thanks Claire for her “candor” and tells tells her that “Mary is fortunate to have a friend as caring as you.” Yikes. (This actually reminded me a bit of the last episode of “The Good Wife”! Claire is sacrificing her friendships in service of her wishes, her husband, and politics… a bit like Alicia, yes?)
At home, Jamie fills Claire in on his meetings with the Prince and St. Germain and concludes that they need to somehow thwart the sale of the goods. In an aside, he comments to Claire that it’d all be fine if there were another smallpox scare aboard the Comte’s ship again. Claire immediately thinks, eureka!
They come up with some nefarious plot in which (WITCH!) Claire will replicate small pox symptoms among members of the crew, thereby resulting in the forced destruction of the entire ship’s goods (like in the first episode of this season, which there really was small pox).
Ultimately, that they hope this will disrupt any deliverance of funds to the Prince and the doomed Jacobite cause.
Talk of planning a fake small pox scare gets Jamie feeling romantic, so he takes the opportunity to present Claire with a present. Jamie gives Claire some family heirloom baby spoons. Cute, I guess, but whatever. Over it.
I was touched, however, by Claire’s maternal insecurities. I thought this was a sweet moment and one that I could imagine as true to Claire. She is competent and confident in so many ways, but knowing how to birth a child is not the same as raising a child.
And, as she points out, she didn’t have a mother to model it for her. Jamie reassured her, but I didn’t think it was too convincing. He didn’t seem to grasp her real and understandable worry.
But it’s okay, he can’t be perfect (gasp). Admittedly, this was a minuscule moment in busy episode, but it stood out to me in terms of Claire.
The next morning, Jamie and Claire have a date with some horses and Sandringham at the Royal Stables!
Two very important things happen at the horse market/garden. One, Claire rocks another fabulous ensemble. Two, Black Jack Randall is BAAAACK!!
First things first, that costume!? There’s a cute story about when the costume designer found that particular fabric and ran into an Outlander fan, which you can read about here or here.
Plot-wise, Sandringham gets to chew some scenery, chiding Jamie about how he could have such great judgment in horseflesh but poor judgment in men (alluding to the Prince). Sandringham slyly lets Jamie know, via his indecisiveness about the horses, that he’s a man who cherishes options.
Claire wanders off alone but is soon joined by Annalise and persuaded to amble about with her, as Annalise talks about Jamie. Tacitly accepting an awkward discussion with a woman who used to know her husband, I’m sure Claire would have gladly endured ten more conversations with Annalise rather than what actually happens.
This is a wonderful scene, as to be expected, Tobias Menzies just KILLS IT. Annalise looks on as Claire seems unable to speak. She introduces herself and Jack reciprocates.
Claire, however, tries to immediately escape. I feel you, Claire! You totally want to be invisible and you can’t even deal! She tries to make her excuses to Annalise, saying she is unwell, but this has the unfortunate effect of causing Annalise to run off to find Jamie, despite Claire’s protestations. Once Annalise has left, Claire finds her voice again, though she continues to try to depart.
I adored seeing Jack Randall again; Menzies plays him with such panache and is so superbly sinister. I could go on and on about how creepy he is and why I find him a great villain, but I can’t in this post. It’s already TL;DR, I know.
I love every facial expression, from his flared nose as he seems to just inhale the moment with her. His pleasure at seeing her and knowing Jamie is near is palpable. When he brings up the absurdity of seeing her here, in Versailles, and comments that “the fates are toying with us” by throwing them together again, it’s both wonderful and true to his character at the situation. He feels lucky, or like this situation was created by powers beyond him, which only adds to his point of view that he is intrinsically tied to James Fraser.
And we have to remember that this reunion is happening in public. At one point Claire is threatening him and trying to move passed him again when Jack simply says, “The King,” at which point Claire hisses, “Fuck the King.”
Unfortunately, Jack then executes an elaborate bow which finally clues Claire in to the realization that the King must be approaching behind her and she was unaware.
She bounces back pretty well, I think, and manages a shaky curtsey. Luckily, the King seems more amused than anything. She then has to introduce Jack to the King.
To make the situation more tense, Jamie arrives. The looks that bounce between Jamie, Jack, Claire, and the King, are fantastic, and I loved the different speeds we see and just overall how this entrance was filmed.
There’s some awkward conversation between Jamie and Jack that allude to Jamie’s prison break and the “accident” that Jack suffered as a result. This is all while the King and attending witnesses look on with varying levels of comprehension. I love the King and all of his mannerisms.
We finally learn that Jack is here because news reached him about the troubles that have befallen his brother, i.e. being thrown in the Bastille and then losing his position as secretary to the Duke of Sandringham. He’s come to try to get his baby bro’s job back! Jack has family loyalty! Or something! Again, we see a few more shades of Jack’s character. The King decides to play with Jack a bit, perhaps because of the tension, or because Jack is wearing the British uniform at Versailles, or simply because he could. He advises Jack that he should beg the Duke on behalf of his brother.
His command, however, leaves it open to interpretation as to whether or not Jack should beg now, or in the future, or both. Everyone waits to see what will happen.
Jack finally, slowly, goes down to his knees. This is a lovely moment for Jamie, who can barely contain his glee at this public comeuppance.
The King and his following break into titters at seeing Jack kneeling and he claims he did not mean that Jack should beg now. It’s a lovely and relatable trick that one could see playing out in a high school cafeteria by a popular bully toward someone else. Seemingly innocent and full of helpful advice, but really out to exert power and humiliate.
Claire finally calls an end to the shenanigans by begging leave from the King as she is feeling unwell. They make their exit, but Jamie quickly returns to Jack without Claire. We see them agree to something and Jack walks back to Claire filled with new purpose.
Yes, Jamie has challenged Jack to a duel, and Jack accepted. Apparently he told Jamie that he owed him a life after the whole prison incident.
Upon returning home, Jamie is elated, telling Fergus that it’s a great day. Claire, however, does not leave the carriage (though Jamie appears not to notice) and tells the driver to take her to the bastille at once.
Jamie and Murtagh commence preparing for the upcoming duel, giddy as two school boys. I loved Jamie’s body language in this scene. You can see him working and stretching his hand, and at first leaned forward, seeming to prepare as they discuss and try to anticipate the method of the duel, i.e. pistols or swords.
But while Jamie is sitting forward and eager, he also pulls off this sort of laid back nonchalance. He’s still primed and ready to fight, but he is also supremely confident that he knows what will happen. I can just picture a cocky male reclining before a big game/battle/what-have-you, shootin’ the shit with his bro in the locker room, at once eager but relaxed—all virility and insouciance.
Claire enters and disrupts their pregame planning. She announces that Randall is locked away in the bastille (for the moment) because she swore a false accusation that it was Randall who attacked them in the street. She admits it was a stop-gap measure, intended only to give Jamie time to “see reason” or submit to Claire’s wishes and forego the duel. Her first reason is the most sensible—she did it to prevent Jamie because dueling is outlawed in France, hence even if he won the duel (i.e. she’s not impinging his honor by suggesting he could lose the duel), he could still be subject to imprisonment or worse. Murtagh tries to assure her that they’d find a secretive spot and evade capture. Claire snaps at him to leave, saying it’s between Jamie and herself
Then we get to her second reason, which paints herself in a much worse light, in tune with her actions the rest of the episode. Again, the reason is Frank.
She finally explains what she’s been obsessing about alone for the past few episodes, ever since she met Mary Randall and remembered the tidbit about Mary and Jack. She says, it will be as if she’s killing Frank, too, if he kills Jack Randall before Jack marries and conceives with Mary.
“It’s part of the future,” she says; to which he aptly replies, “I thought we were here to change the future.” She then tries, “he’s innocent, you can’t kill an innocent man.” And, again, Jamie is incredulous; he doesn’t see how Frank’s innocence means that Jack should live, with all of his crimes.
Jamie then launches into a fairly convincing argument: he says that he can stand a lot (unclear exactly what he means, but I would guess that he is referring to one or all of the following: the fact that his wife was married before him, was ambivalent about marrying him at first, tried to leave him several times, confessed she is from the future, gets into trouble all the time, deals with a stubborn and willful wife who disobeys him, sacrifices himself to save Claire, endures rape and torture, survives and tries to move on from said rape and torture, accepts Claire’s knowledge of the Jacobite rebellion and tries to thwart it through ignoble means despite any misgivings, etc., etc.).
He practically growls at her: “Must I bare everyone’s weakness? May I not have my own?” I thought this was a really powerful moment.
Because, while his desire for vengeance regardless of risks to anyone else (because, let’s be real, his willingness to duel is a risk to his life and thus to the lives and well-being of Claire and their unborn child) is a selfish desire, it’s also completely understandable. And he’s insightful enough to realize that this is, in a way, a weakness. But he seems to be asking Claire, himself, and the world, isn’t this a weakness that he serves to have?
The conversation goes even further down hill from here. Claire, in perhaps her most annoying and I’d say out-of-character move, brings a weird sort of quid pro quo element into their relationship.
She informs him that because she has saved him at least twice, then he owes her a life. I mean, tbh, a lot of relationships unconsciously or consciously involve dynamics like this—I did this for you/us, so you should do that for us/me—but it’s never going to end well because there is no perfectly blind relationship justice or way to balance out what one party does for the other, and why.
And that’s putting aside the times that he has saved Claire’s life. But I don’t think that’s the issue here, I think it’s the fact that she resorted to that bargaining chip in the first place.
She tries to soften the blow of what she is asking by promising that all she needs is one year, and then she will help him kill Randall, should he like. But, obviously, that wouldn’t really help Jamie exorcise his demons as he believes a duel will accomplish (whether that will truly help his recovery is questionable, but killing him will undoubtedly help future innocent victims by sparing them from encountering Jack).
Throughout the scene, we see Claire fall apart more and more, pleading with him and looking guilty even as she continues to stick to her main point. Jamie, who had been the only one moving, pacing, trying to come to grips with what she is asking, why she is asking, how she could be asking this of him, he finally seems to lose most of his animation.
He’s exhausted his arguments and Claire is not backing down. It’s like we see his passions shutter down. He says that because he is a man of honor, he will honor this one request of hers and allow him a year to live.
Basically, we end on a bad note with Claire reaching out to Jamie, and Jamie cringing away from her and telling her not to touch him.
Ouch. I thought this was a really well-acted scene. Jamie was animated and convincing as he seemed to experience a whole host of emotions. Claire’s more rooted stance as she argues feebly with him is also pitch perfect; she knows that she must resort to emotional blackmail to get her way and, though she is willing to do it, she knows that she’s at least partly in the wrong.
And, thus, after the whole breaking up Mary and lil Randall’s true love, this is the act that secures Claire’s condemnation by the audience. And she does do a lot of things that are hard to watch and she tries so hard to rationalize them that’s it hard to like her. I think there are two main issues people have with this storyline in which Claire seems obsessed with “saving” Frank by securing this one rung on his ancestry tree. So, on the one hand, people are annoyed (rightfully) that her time travel “logic” doesn’t make sense because she is actively trying to thwart an entire Scottish rebellion… and, yet, is also trying to preserve multiple generations of procreation that will eventually lead to her Frank by focusing on this one match she remembers from his ancestry (Mary Hawkins and Jack Randall). So, yes, of course this seems ridiculous… but so does everything related to time travel, in my opinion. I love time travel narratives, but they are *seriously* hard to wrap your head around and every time travel story seems to have slightly different rules for altering the future, ripples, butterfly effects, etc. So, yes, we can shake our heads at Claire’s ability to, on the one hand, seek to change the more immediate-future of the Jacobite rebellion, and, on the other hand, preserve the long-term future of Frank Randall. But, idk, that seems pretty human to me? We are inconsistent animals, forever wanting things that are at odds with one another.
Second, and the biggest issue, is that people were frustrated by Claire thwarting Jamie’s vengeance against Black Jack due to her seemingly selfish devotion to Frank at the expense of Jamie. I actually think this is a weak criticism of her. I get that viewers may not love Frank, and starting the second season with a very unhappy Claire reunited with Frank, it feels odd that Claire even cares that much about Frank. But that’s kind of shortsighted; or, future-sighted? It’s easy to imagine sacrificing a bit with Jamie in order to preserve the idea(l) of a future Frank because Claire is confident that she will remain with Jamie. And, yes, the whole premise of the book and Claire’s love triangle (as opposed to what one could argue is Jamie’s love triangle with Black Jack, or even the as yet not introduced LJG) is that Claire is able to have, fuck, and marry two men, without divorcing either. Due to her inadvertent time travel the first time, she is freed from blame to explore this second lover and husband and, eventually, the love of her life. But, even though we have only seen bits and pieces, Claire had a years-long relationship with Frank (though most of it was spent separately during the war). Of course she wants to preserve Frank’s existence!? Like, duh!
And, finally, vengeance and retribution are selfish desires. Doesn’t make it wrong or anything, but Jamie’s is operating from a different sort of stand point in which honor matters more to him than his life. This coincides with what I think was Claire’s best, and most rational argument, that she feared for his (Jamie’s) life—both during the duel and afterward, should the authorities learn of it. Why wouldn’t a woman be worried about this and perhaps try to prevent it? Jesus, first of all, she’s a god damned woman in the eighteenth century whose existence is dependent on her husband (or father, which she doens’t have). Second, she’s fucking pregnant, which is an even more precarious situation. Thirdly, she’s not even from this time, which means she’s at a disadvantage in terms of survival because she has even fewer connections on whom she can rely should anything happen to Jamie. So, yeah, I’d lie and risk angering my husband and denying him his honor and his vengeance if I thought that in doing so I was ensuring his survival, with the added benefit of also preserving another loved one’s survival down the road. I guess I just got amped up because Claire does look kind of shitty throughout this entire episode. And she is! She is selfish! But so is Jamie! And everyone! Fuck, it’s human nature! So, I just don’t think that this episode should be read simply as a selfish woman wanting it both ways, or an annoying harpy of a wife ruling her husband, in contrast to the romantic hero bent on righteous vengeance. That’s a little too simple, and I think unfair to the story and the characters.
Anyways, that’s all. I’ve said my piece (plus some), and I forgot to post this so it’s several weeks after the fact and no one cares. More recaps coming!