Another week, another Outlander, and I think I’m starting to become spoiled. The sumptuousness and warmth of this week’s costuming and sets contrasts so deliciously with the chilling goings-on that the end of this season is going to be devastating in more ways than one. This week’s writing, still on an upward trend from the low that was 2.02, and the look of Outlander make this one of the best shows you should be watching. This week’s episode flew by, a head-spinning influx of information that continues to pull us up the track toward our inevitable crescendo and the downward slope to season’s end.
Last week’s dinner party gone wrong ends with Jamie and the brawlers in the Bastille, including poor Alexander Randall, who was mistakenly accused of raping poor Mary Hawkins. Jamie gets out, thanks to M. Duverney, but Alex remains in the Bastille and only a letter from poor Mary can get him out. To top it all off, the Duke of Sandringham has let him go so now he’s not only in jail, but he’s also unemployed. Yet Mary tells Claire she wants to marry the poor bastard. Claire speaks with Alex after Mary’s letter gets him out; she professes that she’s only thinking of Mary, but she’s really thinking of Frank and his lineage, which says that it’s BJR, not Alex, that marries Mary. One of the things that I’ve enjoyed about Outlander is that Gabaldon never shied away from making Claire fallible and imperfect, and this moment certainly is hard to watch. It’s difficult to see Claire’s machinations and not feel disappointed.
While Claire’s manipulating that relationship, Jamie is still working on manipulating the Bonnie Prince Charlie out of his inevitable attempt to reclaim the English throne, so imagine his surprise when the BPC comes to say that he’s acquired £10,000. From where? Le Comte St. Germain, of course, because the Frasers just can’t seem to shake the CSG and his chin dimple. The BPC will help le Comte buy a shipment of Portuguese Madeira and then Jamie will help them sell the shipment at a significant profit. This will help the BPC start his long march toward England, which, BTW, is what Claire and Jamie are trying to avoid. Claire suggests they sabotage the shipment by somehow faking smallpox on the ship. In the meantime, Jamie not so subtly threatens le Comte for his part in Claire’s and Mary’s misfortunes to this port. The two men exchange threatening stares, which means that we get a nice eyeful of hot dudes staring in the process. Man, Outlander rocks.
Of course, while the Frasers are trying to figure out how to sabotage le Comte and the BPC, they have to go to Versailles so Jamie can help Sandringham pick out some horses and Claire can wear the most fabulous dress on this show to date. (That’s saying a lot considering the red dress and all.) There, they have the misfortune of running into Black Jack Randall, who is still alive and trying to get his brother’s name cleared. Claire can’t seem to escape BJR, which is fortunate, as it leads to one of the best moments of the season thus far. Le Roi Louis XIV happens upon the pair while he’s out on une promenade and encounters Claire and BJR. When the King hears of BJR’s desire to clear his brother’s name, the King suggests that the Englishman get down on his knees and beg, which BJR does. This amuses the King greatly as he is mocking the Englishman, but it also amuses Claire and Jamie, who have both suffered at the hands of the notorious BJR. Claire feigns distress to get out of the situation and Jamie accompanies her, but not before a word with BJR privately.
Jamie challenges Black Jack Randall to a duel and Jamie intends to bleed the man and reap the rewards of vengeance. Claire, distressed because Frank, lodges a false accusation against BJR, intending to keep him safe by having him jailed in the Bastille? If anything, I would think that is just as dangerous as Jamie’s blade, but I digress. Jamie is upset at Claire’s request that he not duel BJR. She tries to make him see reason: he’s going to be a father; Frank’s existence is at stake; dueling is illegal in France. Jamie, however, understandably is determined to finish this and resents Claire for her interference. He sees this as disloyalty; Claire sees it as he owes her one. She persuades him to wait a year, a request he acquiesces to, but, as this is Outlander, you know that’s not going to happen.
Then, BOOM, stay tuned for next week’s episode and another week of anticipation begins.
My Memory Is Long, Yo
I hope your memory is long because this episode left lots of little tantalizing clues as Gabaldon herself tends to do. Many of the season’s scripts have continued this method of storytelling and Richard Kahan, who wrote this episode, stayed quite true to the action of this part of Dragonfly in Amber. Murtagh’s distress at the attack and Claire’s fretting over her ability to mother are both telling moments that have resonance beyond just this episode.
I find any appearance of Annalise de Marillac to be unnecessary, but Annalise and Louise are a combination of more than one of Claire’s female companions from the book. Annalise doesn’t appear in the second book, but in a novella that is a prequel of sorts. Her conversation with Claire about Jamie has a purpose, but I worry that she detracts more than she adds to the story here.
What I enjoyed most about this episode is how much the setting – the costumes, the sets, the gardens, the details – all lend to the contrast because how beautiful this world Claire and Jamie are in is and how very ugly things are about to get. Already, we’re dealing with PTSD (Jamie), a rape (Mary), and a poisoning (Claire) – and we’re only on episode five. These contrasts, the lovely gardens versus the ugly and dramatic confrontation between BJR, Claire, and Jamie, is one of the reasons why I insist that this show is among the better ones on television. Ron Moore and company have done a fantastic job of taking the page to screen; sure, it is easy to see why book readers are disgruntled at times, but, overall, the show feels like it is in the most capable hands.
Lastly, this episode brings out another aspect of Outlander that I hope will find more recognition this year: the acting. Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies have both received major award nominations for their acting from the first season, but, surprisingly, Sam Heughan remains without such recognition. He deserves it, though; Annalise laments to Claire that Jamie has turned into a man, no longer the sweet, impulsive boy she knew. But that’s what Heughan has imbued into Jamie: he is a man, a real man, with complexities and a personality. Jamie Fraser is someone outside of the actor who portrays him; Heughan disappears into his role, the ginger hair, the steely blue eyes, the intensity in his gaze, and more. The confrontation between Jamie and Claire at episode’s end deserves second looks by those in charge of the various academies and such as the range of emotions that passes between the two is mesmerizing.
Next Week, There’s More!