Ep. Review: Outlander 2.6 “Best Laid Schemes”

The thing about the book Outlander is that there are so many subplots that the show version can, at times, feel disconnected from itself. Much like Jamie and Claire struggle to stay on the same page, the historical events and plots and external issues sometimes seem pull away from the central characters’ relationship and journey. This only sometimes frustrates me, but then again I expected this having read the books. I guess my point is that upon reflection, I can definitely see why some people might feel like stopping the rebellion is not a huge deal, or don’t feel invested in it. And while I overall enjoyed this episode, and found certain scenes powerful, in recapping it, there are moments when all you can do is say “and then this happened, and this happened, and this, and then this,” and you have to trust that all of the pieces come together and matter in terms of the overall story of Jamie and Claire. Almost every action they take, every subplot, eventually have a ramification down the road (either in this episode, or several books from now).

So, let’s begin!

We left off last episode at a particularly fraught moment when Jamie agreed to give Black Jack Randall “one year” while cringing away from Claire’s touch. It was not a #blessed moment for the two, ya know?

So, we open with Jamie sitting pensively at his desk while Murtagh pratters on about the impending duel now that BJR has been released from the Bastille. When Jamie finally admits that he’s not dueling with Randall, and has sent word withdrawing his challenge, Murtagh is shocked and confused by Jamie’s change of heart.

murtagh %22say what?%22

He demands an answer (“I ken I’m a simple man, but strive for an explanation.”) and Jamie can’t really provide a good one.

So, naturally, he pulls out that age-old tactic by first accusing Jamie of being a woman (gasp!) and doubling down on the insult by saying he’s acting like a woman in flux (bigger gasp!). You are just menstruating, Jamie! Duh.

yer mind changes like a woman in flux

BURN, bro. But still, Murtagh goes along with pretty much whatever Jamie and Claire tell him, so, like, he has a right to be annoyed.

There still seems to be tension between Claire and Jamie as Jamie is heard muttering under his breath when informed that Claire is working at the hospital, as usual. Ugh, women, always at work!!

And what is our fair damsel up to at L’Hôpital? Beside looking hella pregnant and uncomfortable, she is also preparing a body for burial and bonding with her fellow volunteer, ye olde executioner for the King.

corpse like a hallmark card

Turns out, our boi has to bounce because the King needs him to take part in an execution or two—or several—of persons accused of practicing “dark arts” in the city, including those who associate with them. Cue Claire’s “Oh Shit” face.

He goes into some grisly details about his own dark art of execution, be it hanging or drawing and quartering.

Basically just being his creepy (charming?) self!

He then comments that his disturbing conversation has upset Claire and, right before leaving, suggests that perhaps “our friend” Master Raymond’s company would be better.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Taking the hint, Claire rushes to Master Raymond’s shop and warns him to leave the city at once. Raymond seems mostly unconcerned, referring to an incident decades ago in which heretics merely had to renounce Satan and were then freed. Claire, however, using the intel from her BF Executioner presses the issue and Raymond finally takes heed.

Outlander Season 2 2016

He thanks her but admonishes her as well for putting herself at risk simply by warning him in person. She assures him that “this is what friends do for one another.” (Like she did with Geillis… hope this one works out better!) So, in warning him, Claire earns back some friendship points that she lost last episode.

Maybe Claire sucks at simple Strong Female Friendship, but she seems to do pretty good with the Strong Accused-of-Witchcraft Friendship. Like, she goes all out for those suspected of nefarious magical deeds. I guess that’s coven life for you. #witchesB4bitches

Master Raymond assures her that they will meet again “in this life or another.

Back at la casa de Fraser, we are treated Queen Claire, lounging and looking like a maternity goddess, and living out every wife’s dream of having her feet rubbed by her husband—and, bonus points, he started doing it without her even asking!

Outlander Season 2 2016

Seriously, Jamie, every husband hates you right now. So, it seems like they’re not totally icing each other out, despite their fight, though it obviously hadn’t really been resolved. So, he brings it up while he has her seemingly calm and content.

claire rubbing her belly while jamie rubs her feet

He explains that the lynchpin of her argument last episode, about how he “owed” her, was kind of bullshit because they’ve saved each other quite a few times and so they’re “even” now. Yes, please. Now, let’s put away this childish but all too understandable impulse to keep score!

jamie rubbing claire's feet

He continues to explain that he gave her Randall’s life because he is worried about Claire’s and their unborn child’s futures. Basically, despite all of their machinations to prevent Culloden, they may fail. And if that should happen, and he should die, then he wants there to be a place and a person for her and the baby. And he wants that person to be a man that already loves her. So, he makes her promise that “if the time should come,” she’ll “go back through the stones. Back to Frank.” I’m relieved to hear him speak so sensibly yet romantically! And I’m completely satisfied by this, especially after my rant last week.

After this much-needed resolution touching relationship interlude, we must turn our attention to the never-ending attempts to thwart the Prince! They’re continuing with their “fake smallpox” ruse and we see them in the planning stage. Murtagh is confused (rightly so) as to why they are trying to do all of this—to ruin the Prince’s and the Comte’s wine venture so that they lose their investment and prevent future money lenders. Again, Murtagh (and all of us) ask why they cannot just “slit the Italian fop’s throat and be done with it.

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We get an unsatisfactory answer and move on. Claire is mixing up her fake disease potion now and, lucky husband, testing it on Jamie! She’s demonstrating to Fergus how he must slip the potion into their wine and also get nettle juice onto their skin to complete the symptom trifecta. Honestly, again, I don’t truly care about these details and my favorite thing about these scenes are getting to watch the interplay among the characters!

claire telling fergus to stop fooling around

Murtagh gets to be grumpy and suspicious. Fergus gets to be childish and precocious in the face of Claire’s mothering and exasperation. And Jamie is stoic. It’s a little bit of a family sitcom dynamic, which I’m not complaining about!

Claire observes that Murtagh is angry as they continue to keep him in the dark. The pair concede that they need to tell Murtagh what’s up—namely, that his wife Claire is from the future. That should be easy, yes? Well, in true Outlander fashion, it wasn’t really that hard! We are treated to some very-Murtagh style of reasoning and he’s basically ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ about it all.

The problem isn’t that Murtagh doesn’t believe Claire and Jamie. He is annoyed with Jamie, however, for keeping him in the dark for so long.

They kiss punch and make up, like boys do, and all is well! Claire’s from the future! Jamie believes! Murtagh believes and doesn’t really care! Time travel for all!

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It’s time for Jamie and Fergus to go off and spread fake smallpox! Claire has a cute stay at home housewife vibe going as she brings a bag (lunch?) out to Jamie and tells Fergus to be good and stay safe. It’s great to see Claire and Jamie start acting like parents with Fergus in preparation for their own.

claire watching jamie and fergus ride off

After seeing them off, she returns to find Murtagh working on something at a desk. He was writing out the numbers of the years that Claire lived (1918-1945) and you can see him grappling with the knowledge.

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Murtagh is such a softie at heart, so he naturally empathizes with Claire and tells her that he wouldn’t want to bear that kind of burden (of being from the future). He’s suh cyute.

Fergus completes his mission, successfully drugging the men and tainting their product and Jamie returns home in the middle of the night, assuring Claire that all went well.

jamie assuring claire that if anyone can deliver disease...

jamie assuring claire that they can deliver disease

Lo and behold, and surprising no one, there’s another hitch in their master plan! Summoned to the brothel/office, Jamie encounters a frantic Prince and a seething Comte, who inform him of the suspected outbreak.

Outlander Season 2 2016

They also, however, come up with a Plan B, which includes stuff like bribes and transports and stuff, idk, but the outcome is that now Jamie has to continue to play the role of good Jacobite soldier and accommodate the Prince’s wishes. So, Jamie says he’ll set off soon to move the wine from one warehouse to another in the middle of the night so no one finds out about the potential (fake) smallpox scare. The Comte, ever suspicious of the Frasers, tells him he will join him on the midnight ride.

Or, as recapper Connie Verzak explains:

i need to comte along to make this situation sexier

So, back to our intrepid schemers… the gang gathers in what I’d like to think of as the family room for another episode of “The Frasers,” a family sitcom with the weary and pregnant wife Claire…

claire %22ugh men%22

…married to the easygoing everyman husband Jamie (and with the impish adopted orphan Fergus to “liven” things up)…

wanna go to bed now?

…joined in their large family home by the curmudgeonly but tender Uncle Murtagh, who is in a relationship with the sassy maid Suzette who is “part of the family”!

suzette touching murtagh's beard

i love being a maid

The details of the next plan were discussed and it is clear that it probably won’t end well and also nobody really cares anymore. Murtagh pulled several faces as he donned a French nobleman’s clothes and all in all, it was lovely minor scene.

(I’m ALL in for Murtagh and Suzette, so pardon the excessive gifs of those two.)

murtagh %22what's under there%22

murtagh %22but i don't want to be a pirate%22

i make this look good

time to tie you up in my sex dungeon

Basically, their next plan is to have Murtagh and some hired guns hold up Jamie and the Comte and their goods and steal it, thus robbing the Comte and the Prince of their goods and potential earnings.

Again, Claire and Jamie have a nice bedroom chat where Claire rightly observes that things tend to go awry when they’re separated for any length of time but Jamie assures her that they always find their way back to each other. And he talks to her belly and does cute things (though I think it’d be even cuter if Murtagh was doing this to Suzette, sry I’m not sry) and says he can’t wait to meet the bairn. And then they have sexytime!

With Jamie away, Claire has to be social for awhile with her friend Louise and the rest of the tittering ladies who move in the same circles. This is happening the same night as Jamie’s transport (and the faux attack from Murtagh-as-highway-man)

Outlander Season 2 2016

The Comte is not backing down, however, so things are about to escalate…

Outlander Season 2 2016

Jamie ends up (fake) saving the Comte and defusing the situation and Murtagh knocks him out to make it convincing.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Meanwhile, Claire is with the ladies, drinking and gossiping, when she goes full socially-aware-politically-active but instead of resulting in a discussion of how to help the poor, they decide they should simply move the poor from view. Claire leaves abruptly.

She seems to head straight to the hospital to help more, but she’s not looking too hot. Mother H tells her to lie down and take care of herself and her baby. She is bleeding a bit, which is maybe a slight concern but they seem to be pretty chill about it.

Outlander Season 2 2016

 

Yet, Mother H orders Claire to sleep at the hospital rather then make the trek home at that hour. She sends Fergus to tell Jamie where he is, so he won’t worry.

Jamie is rehashing the night’s events with the Prince and the Comte.

Outlander Season 2 2016

The Comte is suspicious of the timing and comes close to accusing Jamie.

comte ready to fight jamie

The Prince actually intervenes and vouches for Jamie again, pointing out that the Comte himself admitted Jamie saved him and was injured, which suggests his innocence.

The Prince announces that he will leave France and return to Italy after this latest string of failures. And starts to cry.

May-27-2016 18-53-21

Returning home early the next morning, Jamie finds Fergus, who tells him Claire is still at the hospital, though everything is fine, he assures Jamie.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Fergus and Jamie continue bonding and discuss Murtagh’s pending absence after last night’s charade. (They’ve sent Murtagh to Portugal on some actual wine business so he’s relatively out of sight.) Fergus has the excellent line that he’ll miss Murtagh’s smile the most. That little imp!

While eating breakfast, Jamie learns that Prince Charles is in trouble at the brothel and is asking for Jamie’s help, as usual. Fergus offers to accompany Jamie (in place of Murtagh) and solemnly promises to guard his right. These boys are pretty cute.

fergus offering to guard jamie's right

Jamie telling fergus he'd be honored

At the brothel, Jamie tells Fergus to wait for him, which, of course, the boy promptly disobeys. Kids!

jamie telling fergus to wait for him at brothel

fergus ignoring jamie's advice

He wanders down a hallway and sees an open room and ever the inquisitive boy and part-time thief, he enters and starts poking around, looking for something to take. But, alas, we see a suspiciously familiar British red coat hanging in the corner… and a shadow falls over Fergus. Yes, Black Jack’s back (oh no!), and the scene immediately cuts away.

The editing here contributed to the overall tension as we don’t see what happens to Fergus. While we the audience know a bit more than Claire, we mostly have to rely on her point of view and learn about events while she learns about them.

We then see Claire arriving home looking none-too-fresh in yesterday’s gown, and all of the servants exchanging worried looks. She seems to sense that something is off.

May-27-2016 18-54-33

She asks where Jamie is and Suzette hedges at first before finally explaining that he was called to the brothel to help Prince Charles, shortly thereafter he got into a fight with an English officer, and now they are at the woods for a duel. Claire freaks out.

May-27-2016 18-57-33

Suzette doesn’t know everything and Claire finds a simple note that says “I’m sorry. I must.” She almost collapses but instantly starts out in a carriage for the clearing, with Magnus accompanying her.

She keeps cursing and panting throughout the carriage ride. It’s hard to tell if her pains are a psychological response or a physiological response related to her pregnancy—or, more likely, a combination of the two. Magnus helps her walk through the woods toward the duel.

 

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May-27-2016 19-02-23

She arrives to find the duel in progress, and looking like it has been going on for awhile.

Outlander Season 2 2016

She fears calling out and distracting Jamie, so she must simply watch. While the men fight, she is fighting her own battle with her body; even as they are grunting, avoiding  close calls and enduring pain, she is holding in screams of agony.

May-27-2016 19-04-16
May-27-2016 19-03-38

At one point, Black Jack is taunting Jamie, asking, “How does she forgive you? How?” It’s an excellent example of Black Jack’s efforts at psychological manipulation, taunting him not just about what Jamie suffered, but how he is still suffering in his relationship with Claire. It’s a nice bit of victim-shaming from a master. It also points toward Black Jack’s persistent view that he and Jamie share a profound bond and have a relationship; one can imagine a spurned former lover asking the same question.

 

May-27-2016 19-05-36

Meanwhile, Claire appears to be going into labor, or the baby is in distress, but whatever, it is not good. Jamie finally manages to stab Black Jack in his groin (testicles?) and seems to be momentarily victorious, and so Claire finally calls out to Jamie.

duelduel 2

She screams Jamie’s name, and he looks up, shocked to see her there. Before he could even attempt to reach her, the Gens d’armes appear to bust up the illegal duel and order Jamie to put down his weapon, preventing him from going to Claire.

Claire collapsing at duel

The King's men breaking up duel, jamie's face

The camera closes in on Jack Randall’s pained face, along with Claire’s tortured face, and Jamie’s concerned  face in a nice bit of symmetry.

Claire's face during miscarriage

I couldn’t help but be reminded of the ancient Spartan tradition (according to some) in which only men who died in battle were honored with their names on headstones as a matter of honor, and the equivalent was that only women who died in childbirth received likewise honors and headstones with funerary inscriptions, thus equating fighting in battle to childbirth in terms of paying the ultimate sacrifice. [Sarah B. Pomeroy, Spartan Women (Oxford, 2002).]

Jamie’s anguish is palpable, while Claire seems to be fading out.

May-27-2016 19-09-15

Before Claire blacks out, she instructs Magnus to take her to Mother H at the hospital.


 

As always, for the insane people out there who might be like me and enjoy reading multiple recaps and reviews, here are a few more links for you:

The A.V. Club reviewer gave the episode a B+ (with a community grade of A-).

Connie Verzak always has a nice mix of comedy in her recaps, as well as sometimes adding some background information, which I love. This time, she reminds us that the episode title comes from Robert Burns’ poem “To a Mouse.”

The IGN review brings up a few potential tensions between serialized storytelling and episodic storytelling, if you’re having similar thoughts.

I always like the SMTB recap, and appreciate the post for zeroing in on the hilarity that is Murtagh questioning, “Why are we trying to fake smallpox?”

Roxane Gay continues to sound a bit suspicious and critical of the recent episodes, asking of Jamie and Claire, “How the hell do these people stay together?” Fair enough!


 

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