On my kids’ Cars DVD, there’s an Easter egg on one of the menu screens. If you watch, at a certain point a little Piston Cup icon will appear and it will take you to a short behind-the-scenes featurette about the making of the movie. It’s a detail that is borne of watching the DVD over and over again, but, more than that, it’s all about paying attention. Those who are mindful of what they see onscreen and the patterns of information in front of them are rewarded.
Such is being an Outlander fan. If you’re paying attention, you’ll be rewarded. Those rewards start now.
One of the downsides of the television version of the saga of Jamie and Claire is that those Easter eggs have to be a bit more in-your-face in order to be effective. Nevertheless, though, the eggs are there and they’re starting to crack. This fourth episode of season two rewards careful viewers from the opening move to the final look of concern on Claire’s face.
All the Bitter Things
The episode opens with Claire’s ‘poisoning,’ which she thinks was really simply bitter cascara in a spiked goblet of wine, but it follows smoldering looks of menace from le Comte St. Germain. Claire’s previous encounter with seeing St. Germain at Maître Raymond’s shop plus Claire’s conversation with Raymond about switching out a particular poison with bitter cascara lead her back to his shop, where she discovers even more peculiarities, including a dinosaur skull. Apparently, Raymond is fascinated with ‘things not of this time’ and perhaps he suspects that Claire is just like that raptor skull. When she professes concern about Frank’s future, Raymond reads the Zulu sheep knuckles to tell her that she’ll see him again. Claire looks confused; Outlander fans moan bitterly for we all know that he’s right.
To add to that bitter taste of knowing what’s coming, Louise tells Claire at their next get-together that she’s pregnant and Claire, trying to persuade Louise to keep the baby, tells her that it would be better if “the child is brought up with love.“ Cue bitter pit in your gut, Sassenachs, for that’s exactly what Frank tells Claire when he proposes they raise the baby she returns with together. Do you see what I mean about paying attention? I wouldn’t cast off any detail or remark from this show EVER. It all comes around in some way in the end.
Thanks for the Lean-To, Claire
Speaking of pregnant ladies, you guys remember that Claire is knocked up, right? After Jamie returns home from the brothel the Bonnie Prince prefers, he jumps on his lovely wife and wants to get down until she discovers these little purple marks on HIS THIGHS. Understandably, Claire is nonplussed about the soixante-neuf that Jamie’s been engaging in, especially when she’s pregnant-lady randy, and the whole conversation turns into Claire’s lonely and Jamie’s been seeking shelter from his Wentworth trauma under a blade of grass. Clearly, they’ve not been talking to each other and they’re both bitter about it. Then we see Claire’s boobs because she wants Jamie to find his way back to her and le bump and they do it in a cupboard that happens to have a bed in it and, other than thinking ‘Hello, Claire’s boobs,’ all I can think is ‘where are the guest bedrooms in Jared’s enormous chalet?’ Surely, the place has more than one bedroom?
The loving leads Jamie to confess to Claire that he’s progressed from a blade of grass to a lean-to and a roof, shelter from the rain, thanks to her boobs and the revelation that the good Black Jack Randall is still breathing. Good job, Sassenach. Cue prowler on the roof and the inauspicious entrance of the Bonnie Prince into the chalet. What better way to demonstrate what a ‘delusional popinjay’ he is than to have him drunkenly enter via the roof? If the Bonnie Prince says “Mark me” one more time, I think I might popinjay him myself if somebody else doesn’t do it first. Oy.
The BPC dropped in with a wound that Claire looks at, a monkey bite which causes little pings of realization to go off in Jamie’s and Claire’s brains. So the BPC and Louise have been dancing the horizontal boogie and now Louise is preggers with his illegitimate love child who hopefully will not go on to stage an ill-fated attempt at taking the English throne. What better way to derail the upcoming Rising and avoid the disaster at Culloden than airing Louise’s dirty laundry in front of the BPC and the Duke of Sandringham at the dinner that the Frasers are putting on? “Does this make us bad people?” Claire asks Jamie.
“The way I see it,” the King of Men says. “we’re doing a bad thing for a good reason.”
“Isn’t that what all bad people say?”
Perhaps Lady Broch Tuarach. Perhaps.
Why Can’t We Have Nice Things?
All of this leads up to the dinner party from hell. After Claire spends her day out of the way of the maids, she gets detained by a broken carriage wheel and a group of brigands who assault her and rape Mary Hawkins. Again, here is where those wee details come in handy; we know that Mary Hawkins marries the notorious BJR and propagate the generations that lead down to Frank. The rape puts Mary’s marriage to le Vicomte de Marigny in danger because, if anyone discovers she’s been compromised, her reputation will be ruined and she’ll be unable to marry anyone, let alone le Vicomte. Jamie and Claire put Mary upstairs in the chalet and return to their dinner party, Claire still reeling from the assault. Of course, she gets to sit next to le Comte St. Germain, contemplating how he could sit next to her after presumably hiring the brigands who attacked her.
Of course, Mary Hawkins wakes up from her post-rape sedation and runs downstairs after mistaking Alexander Randall for one of the men who attacked her. His attempts to reassure her leave them both in a compromising position, which leads to a brawl between Jamie, le Vicomte, and Silas Hawkins. Murtagh even joins in while Claire stands on the sidelines, trying to chill everyone out. After three episodes of a bitterly unJamie Jamie, it’s nice to see the King of Men back taking care of business, but, of course, le Comte St. Germain and the BPC are there to witness the brawl and, oh so helpfully, call for les gens d’armes. Yay. Progress.
Finally, I Have an Opinion
This week’s script is by Tony Graphia, who, like Anne Kenney, seems to have a better feel for the tempo of the action in Dragonfly in Amber as well as a knack for incorporating more of the book’s dialogue. The second episode, written by Ira Steven Behr, was clunkier than Kenney’s and now Graphia’s episodes, which has lead me to start checking for the episode’s writer prior to first viewing so I know what to expect. This episode sees the action start to gain traction and move the story forward, sort of like we’re watching a large rocket rolling toward the launch pad: it takes some time to see progress. Even though I know other Sassenachs have been dissatisfied with the pace and form of Jamie and Claire’s relationship this season, I see the difficulties the show’s writers face in compacting a process that takes time in the book that they simply don’t have on the show. I have little complaints about that.
Another area that has proven problematic was Mary Hawkins’ violation in this episode. After Jamie’s experience at Wentworth and Claire’s near-rape in the glade in episode 1.08, it might seem that Gabaldon relies too much upon this type of violence to drive the action in her books. Gabaldon’s work is not that of the soft-focus bodice rippers that one might expect, but more of a dramatic saga that plays out over a vast expanse of time. The books are necessarily complex and meant to be gritty and dramatic, not shying away from realistic relationships, including the complex interplay of power inherent in sexual violence. I understand it might be too much for some viewers, but to reject the Outlander saga because of it means that one risks missing out on some of the finest storytelling of the last twenty-five years.
Next Time on As the Broch Turns
What’s next now for the brawling Frasers? Now that Jamie knows that the notorious BJR is still kicking, how will he react to their inevitable encounter? What’s next for Claire and the many balls she’s juggling – her work at the hospital, her enmity with le Comte St. Germain, and the knowledge about what lies ahead for the BPC? Find out next week. Bonus: here’s the preview for next week’s episode.