If you haven’t yet invested in a box of tissues, I advise you, Sassenachs, to start looking for good deals now because you’re going to need them. This week’s episode is not yet the crest of the crescendo from which the rest of the season descends, but is the first part of it and portends next week’s major happening, one of those pieces of history in any relationship which defines it for better or ill for the rest of its life.
This episode rests on something that I dislike: its dependence on the book and its assumption that a chunk of the audience is familiar enough with the goings-on to withstand the omission of some information. While I have read the series more than once, I do try to look at the series from the point of view of someone who is only familiar with what is onscreen and this week’s episode is not friendly enough for that part of the audience. It makes the action uneven, which is disappointing given the episode’s writer. I’ll cover this in more depth in the latter part of this review.
“We Always Find Our Way Back to Each Other”
When we left Claire and Jamie last week, she had asked him to delay his duel with Black Jack Randall for a year so that Randall could sire the child that eventually would continue the line down to Frank Randall, Claire’s 20th-century spouse, whom she unceremoniously abandoned for Jamie in the first book. Jamie agreed, but not without being understandably angered and told Claire not to touch him as the episode concluded. This week, though, the action opens with Jamie having withdrawn his challenge without explanation to anyone (Murtagh) and somehow the couple are back on amiable terms. So much so that they conspire with Murtagh and Fergus to sabotage the Portuguese Madeira that le Comte St. Germain and Prince Charles want to sell to raise funds for the Rising. Claire demonstrates how they will accomplish this, but, in the process, she and Jamie both realize how unhappy Murtagh is with their plans. They agree they need to let him in on Claire’s secret.
Jamie and Fergus travel to Le Havre to attempt to fake smallpox in the crew of the ship that the Medeira is arriving on. The plan succeeds, but le Comte intervenes, hiding the ‘sick’ crewmen and getting the cargo ready to transport to Paris for sale. The BPC asks Jamie to help transport it; Jamie and Murtagh conspire to set up some hired thugs posing as Les Disciples to help them steal the wine so that the Prince and le Comte cannot sell it, again thwarting the BPC’s attempts to fund his attempt to retake the English throne. Jamie attempts to throw off suspicion by defending le Comte during the brawl with the thugs, but le Comte is still wary of the Frasers. The BPC, on the other hand, is still oblivious to Jamie’s machinations and loses himself at his favorite brothel, running up a debt he cannot pay. Jamie goes over there to help him out, but Fergus gets in trouble while he’s there. Big trouble. Trouble that wears a redcoat and owes Jamie a death.
While waiting for Jamie to return from Le Havre, Claire attempts to divert herself with a visit to Louise’s salon, where the gossip of the idle noble ladies frustrates her. She leaves for L’Hopital des Anges, working until the wee hours, tending patients as a distraction from her worry. While there, she starts to bleed and Mother Hildegarde orders her to rest, meaning that she is not home when Jamie returns. Claire returns home to find Jamie missing and inquires to his whereabouts since it’s been clear he was home. A note – I’m sorry. I must. – J—plus the news of what happened at the brothel from Suzette, her maid, sends into a panic. Jamie, angered by an encounter between Black Jack Randall and Fergus, has gone ahead with the duel and Claire insists upon going out there to see it for herself. Inconveniently, she begins to bleed and seems to be in the midst of a miscarriage as she watches Jamie and BJR battle with blades. Jamie wounds BJR rather savagely just as les gens d’armes arrive and Claire collapses, asking Magnus, Jamie’s manservant, to take her to Mother Hildegarde. The episode ends with BJR’s eyes closing, Claire collapsing, and Jamie’s distraught shouting for his wife.
Fade to black. The Starz preview gives you little to go on. The Australian version of next week’s preview leaves plenty more information. Needless to say, if you saw this season’s first episode, you have a pretty good idea of what happens.
‘In This Life or Another’
In the very first episode of this season, we see Claire return to the 20th century. Clearly, something terrible happened to Jamie, which could be the only reason, we were to assume, that she would leave him. At the end of season one, Claire had told Jamie she was pregnant; at the beginning of season two, she tells Frank she is pregnant with Jamie’s child. It’s clear in both instances that she’s early in her pregnancy and it’s easy to see how someone who has not yet read the books would be confused. This episode clears up some of the confusion:
- Jamie asks Claire to return to her own time if something happens to him.
- She is not pregnant with the same child when she returns.
- Frank Randall still exists when she returns.
After watching 2.06, I almost wish that Ron Moore and company had omitted the frame story and just picked up where season one left off just because it kind of feels like everything has been spoiled for us already. Really, all that’s left is the journey from point A to point B. In a book like Dragonfly in Amber, Gabaldon had plenty of time to explain and show; the show doesn’t have that luxury and I wonder if viewers would be better off without that frame story because of the time constraints. The season is only thirteen episodes and we’re already on episode six. To get to where Claire is in episode one, we have only seven more episodes to go from Claire’s presumptive miscarriage to being newly pregnant and from Jamie’s embrace to wrenching herself from him and this time she has made a home in. That first forty minute or so of episode 2.01 could have been used for something else and I’m left concerned about how the story will unfold from here.
Speaking of time constraints, this writer for this episode, Matt Roberts, completely omits how Claire and Jamie went from the dramatic exchange at the end of 2.05 to the closeness evidenced here by Jamie’s fond conversation with Claire’s bump. We do realize that time is of the essence, but that seems a big jump in the relationship omitted altogether. What prompted the change? Sure, Claire might be pleased by Jamie’s rescission of the duel challenge, but what about Jamie? If you’ve read the book, you won’t be surprised; if you’re a viewer only, you might be sitting there, asking yourself ‘huh?’ Your confusion is justified. It feels like Roberts is just building bridges, getting you from one place to the other and leaving out some details that make this a story. Good writing shows rather than tells. The same applies for television. It is possible to show and still not tell a story. The script hits all of the necessary points to move the action forward, but not without leaving behind the feeling that we’re missing something.
As always, though, you cannot watch or read something that originates from Diana Gabaldon and find anything in the story insignificant. I hope we will be rewarded in the next few episodes, but the omission of Claire’s and Jamie’s making up feels like a glaring question mark in light of what the next couple of episodes will look like.
Previews of Outlander 2.07 – “Faith”
Here is the Starz preview for Outlander’s next episode:
Soho, the Australian channel that airs Outlander over there, has a different preview: