Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Emotions Run High - a recap of Season 2 episode 4 by your Aussie Blogging Lass!

 OutlanderHomepage Originals By Susie Brown 

As the strains of the Skye Boat song transform into the opening music for this episode, we immediately notice a change in mood. Gone are the jarring harpsichord notes from episode 2, or the elaborate strings of episode 3. This time, we have flutes, which immediately set a more lighthearted tone. 

It is a tone that continues into the first scene, where Jamie and Duverney are playing yet another game of chess in the Grand Library at Versailles. This time though, Claire is hovering over Jamie’s shoulder, watching the proceedings. Politely, Durverney asks if they have thought of baby names. The looks on both Jamie and Claire’s faces are priceless, as they hear the potential choices of their spouse. “Lambert” is quickly rejected by Jamie for sounding too English, whilst Claire declares “Dalhousie” as being reminiscent of a sneeze. 

But just as we are lulled into believing that this may at last be a happier episode, who should enter the picture but the Comte St Germain, who quickly dismisses both the game and Claire with a bored speech and an icy stare respectively. 

Jamie cannot disagree with the Comte’s prediction of his inevitable loss however, and concedes the game. Duverney responds by deeming it to be a draw, commenting that Jamie was obviously distracted and stating he would prefer a clean victory. Claire takes the hint and goes in search of “something else to do”, accepting a glass of wine from a passing servant as she leaves.

Jamie and Durverney’s talk turns to politics, with Duverney revealing that King Louis is intrigued by the pledges of the English nobility towards the Jacobite cause. Casually browsing the library shelves nearby, Claire sips her wine and at the back of the frame, we see the Comte appear. He is out of focus, but it is obvious that he is intently watching Claire. Within seconds, she begins to cough and then doubles over in pain. 

Alarmed, Jamie runs to her side. The other patrons in the library look on, as Duverney calls for assistance and Jamie sweeps Claire up in his arms. The Comte then comes into focus, still watching intently. While the other patrons are still, the Comte paces, with just the faintest hint of a smile crossing his face. It is an action that makes him look predatory and we are left to assume that his earlier threat to make Claire pay was not an empty one. 

Back at Jared’s house, Jamie is making a white-faced Claire a cup of tea. She tells him that she doesn’t think it was poison, but rather bitter cascara, due to the aftertaste she had detected in the wine. Jamie asks about the child and Claire reassures him that the baby should be fine, but adds that she had been terrified to think that she might lose it. They discuss whether the Comte was behind her sudden illness, with Jamie swearing to make St Germain suffer. While Claire says that she would give good money to watch, they have no proof and they cannot risk a scandal that would result in Prince Charles distancing himself from them.  Still feeling nauseous, Claire asks Jamie to distract her and to update her on what is happening with Duverney. Jamie tells her that Duverney has spoken to Louis, who is intrigued by Charles’ offer of alliance. If the promised money from Sandringham is forthcoming, then Louis is likely to support the campaign as well. Jamie suggests a new plan: that they host a dinner for Sandringham and invite Charles as well, with the intention of making the Prince seem foolish, therefore dissuading the Duke from supporting him. While the plan is a good one, Claire realises that the time has come. She must tell Jamie of Sandringham’s secretary, Alexander Randall and give him the news that Black Jack is still alive. 

Jamie’s response is unexpected, to say the least. He declares this to be wonderful news, because it means he will have the chance to see Randall die. 

He is now freed from something that has been plaguing him for months: the fact that he had missed Black Jack’s death. He reassures Claire that he is not about to return to Scotland to exact revenge, thereby risking the hangman’s noose and abandoning their plans in France. Suddenly Jamie is lighter and happier, kissing Claire and her pregnant belly and smiling with genuine thanks. The sense of relief in them both - and indeed in the viewers! - is palpable. Claire even jokes with a relieved Murtagh the following morning, saying she didn’t know why he’d been so worried about telling Jamie the news. 

Although different from the book, the way back for Jamie is still the opportunity to fight back against Black Jack Randall. In the book, this fight occurs in his drug induced haze at the Abbey, when Claire mimics the voice of Randall and gives Jamie the opportunity to take control, thereby redeeming his soul. In this version, the redemption has come by giving the news that Randall lives. The promise of the fight back is still in the future, but the very fact that it exists restores control and hope to Jamie. At last, the same conclusion has been reached, albeit it by an alternative method. It is certainly more believable to watch on screen and is beautifully acted by both Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan. 

The positive mood shifts once again in the following scene however, when Claire returns to Master Raymond’s and tells him of the attempted poisoning the previous evening, which had endangered both her and her child. Remembering their previous conversations about poison, she asks whether he had sold bitter cascara to the Comte St Germain. Master Raymond tells her that he had only had one buyer for bitter cascara in the past month and he had no way of knowing who that person was.

Worried that they are being watched, he takes her into his private room, which is lavishly and beautifully decorated with symbols and skulls. With a piercing look, Raymond speaks of having long been fascinated by things “not of this time”. 

This is a very clever line. While we are left to wonder if Raymond can tell of Claire’s time travelling abilities, book readers will also recognise it as an illusion to his own mysterious situation. Raymond perceives that Claire is worried about something and she admits that she is. She speaks of her friend Frank, sharing her fear that his future is in doubt. Master Raymond then performs a form of fortune telling, by getting Claire to throw the bones in order to get the answer to her question. When Claire looks in the cup, it appears to be empty, but a second glance shows it full of sheep knuckles after all. Raymond remarks that this is merely a sleight of hand that he often cannot resist with his customers and they share a laugh. This is also brilliant foreshadowing for book readers “in the know", as this very skill becomes a vital plot point later on. 

The result of the casting is troubling for Claire, as the knuckles suggest that she will indeed see Frank again. With Bear McCreary’s Frank melody playing softly in the background, we see the shock on Claire’s face. 

It is another reminder to the viewers that Claire and Jamie’s plan will ultimately fail. While we already know this from the first episode, it is nonetheless a jarring moment. Seemingly unaware of the turmoil his comment has created, Master Raymond says that it is Claire who is his main concern, giving her a stone pendant which he says will change colour in the presence of poison. 

While he can charge much to his customers for such a stone, Raymond declares it to be free of charge and winks at Claire. We are left wondering: is this merely a gesture of camaraderie, or is it an apology for the bitter cascara? Had he known after all and his conversation about bitter cascara in the previous episode had been a warning? Regardless of the answer, this scene has links to many events both past and future. It is a stroke of genius by the production team.

The next scene finds Claire with Louise and Mary, both admiring Louise’s new cuckoo clock. Mary is charmed, but Claire is confused as to how this qualifies as an urgent visit. Louise quickly dispatches Mary to get food for the devilish pet monkey, so that she can share her delicate news: she is pregnant. At this point, we see a new Louise. It is a beautiful contrast to the Louise we have seen up to this point. 

She no longer appears worldly, but younger and unsure. This Louise has reached the conclusion that she must terminate the pregnancy, as the baby is not her husband’s and she asks Claire’s help. Claire says that she can attempt to brew a herbal potion that would do the job, but that it is a dangerous thing to do, as it could kill her as well. Once she has ascertained that Louise really wants to keep the child, Claire tries to offer other suggestions, such as leaving her husband, or convincing her husband that the child is his. Louise asks, “How will I raise a child with a man who is not the father” and we are instantly transported to Claire’s 1940s dilemma, as it is a situation which we know she will face with Frank. Claire’s answer is telling, saying all that matters is that the child is brought up with love. Once again, we wonder if she will remember this herself when the time comes. 

Later that evening, Jamie returns, still in a happy mood, with romance very much on his mind. Foreplay is brought to an abrupt halt however, when Claire notices bite marks on Jamie’s thighs. This is a complex scene, brilliantly written and performed, that deals with the struggles their relationship has suffered over the past months. 

Jamie takes some time to realise the seriousness of Claire’s reaction. He has viewed the incident as a positive one, because now that the possibility of being the one to end Black Jack’s life exists, he has begun to be filled with lust again and has finally felt like a man. He speaks of the whore who had been intent on a “69” - with more emphasis on the ‘6” - with a sort of humorous affection, not seeming to notice the effect that his comments are having on Claire. She finally explodes, wondering why she should feel happy that he wanted to stir up his feeling with a whore before he would touch her. 

In an increasingly emotional speech, Claire lets out her feelings of helplessness over the past months: how she has tried to be patient, how she has longed to be touched, how she has felt alone carrying their child, mentioning that they have barely spoken of the baby, even discussing baby names at the prompting of Duverney. Jamie responds by saying that she also doesn’t realise what he has been dealing with since Wentworth, leading Claire to utter an impassioned, “Tell me! Talk to me! Make me understand!” There is a moment of silence, the mutual pain evident on their faces. And finally he speaks. 

What follows may well be one of the most longed for speeches for book fans, exquisitely performed by Sam Heughan. Using words resurrected from the Outlander novel, Jamie speaks of how the private part of himself, the fortress deep inside him - his soul - was blown apart by the events of Wentworth and left without shelter. He was left naked, alone, trying to hide under a blade of grass. He tells an obviously emotional Claire that this is where he has been ever since and leaves the room to “sleep elsewhere” for the night, as Claire’s hands close protectively over her belly.

But this time, Claire does not let the distance between them stand. She follows him, takes off her gown and whispers to Jamie to come and find her, to find them. 

At last, they make love without the spectre of Black Jack, but with the very different unseen presence of their child. The Jamie and Claire theme music swells as they do indeed find each other. Afterwards, we hear the remainder of the fortress speech, where Jamie tenderly tells Claire that she has built him a lean-to and a roof to keep out the rain. 

Noises above them interrupt their reconciliation, as Jamie hears someone on their own roof.

Grabbing his shirt and his knife, he goes to investigate. Into the bedroom tumbles a very wet and very drunken Charles Stuart, whom Jamie introduces to Claire. It is an amusing meeting, Claire curtseying in her nightdress, while the Prince demands a whisky and his bandaged hand seen to. While Jamie takes care of his first demand and Claire the second, Charles speaks of his evening’s events. He has been spurned by his lover and forced to flee over the rooftops when her husband arrived home early. Charles speaks of God putting obstacles in his path, but he remains determined to overcome them and win his lover back. Claire remarks that his hand looks like it has been bitten by an animal and soon realises the truth. The Prince’s lover is none other than her friend, Louise de Rohan.

Armed with this news, and remarking that the two star crossed lovers are both dreamers who live in a fantasy world and are probably perfect for each other, Jamie and Claire discuss a new plan that could turn events to their advantage. 

They decide to invite Louise, her husband and Charles to the dinner they are hosting for Sandringham, musing that if Charles hears about the pregnancy at the dinner table, he will come unhinged, making the Duke’s support for the Jacobites all the more unlikely. 
When Claire asks if this makes them bad people, Jamie responds that they are doing a bad thing for a good reason. They embrace again and we see that their easy intimacy has returned.

A week later, as the table is being set for dinner, Claire leaves for the hospital, telling Jamie that there has been an explosion at the armoury and she would rather be somewhere where she is useful, as she is not allowed in the kitchen. Jamie instructs her to take Murtagh and Fergus with her and Claire promises to be home before sunset. 

The next scene sees Murtagh and Fergus waiting outside the hospital. Mary Hawkins (who book viewers know has been volunteering with Claire, but whose appearance may seem strange to tv only viewers) comes to tell them it will be another hour. She disappears back inside and Fergus shares his knowledge of women with an increasingly confused and impatient Murtagh. 

In an amusing by-play, the two become the closest duo to Rupert and Angus that season 2 has seen to date!

Inside the hospital, Claire is impressed by the acupuncture skills of Monsieur Forez, who is  in the middle of resetting a badly broken leg. When the man suggests Mary smear the wound with hanged man’s grease, Mother Hildegarde explains that Monsieur Forez also works as an executioner. 
She comments that the bulk of the hospital’s physicians are better than nothing, but that Claire is a great deal better than nothing. Claire beams in gratitude and it is a lovely moment of respect between the two women. 

Emerging at last, Claire and Mary are greeting by a gruff Murtagh, who announces that the wheel on the carriage is broken and that he has sent Fergus on ahead to tell Jamie that they will be late.

Saying that she has promised to be home to greet the guests, Claire insists that they walk. As they begin the journey, Jamie is already greeting the first guests to arrive at the house - none other than the Duke of Sandringham and Alexander Randall.

The Duke takes great pleasure in making the introductions, but Jamie maintains his composure.

Unaware of any possible turmoil, Alex Randall is the epitome of earnest politeness, but has similar voice patterns of Black Jack. This is wonderful acting by Laurence Dobiesz, who must have worked with Tobias Menzies to achieve this. The guests continue to arrive, but there is, as yet, no sign of Claire. Fergus appears to tell Jamie that there “will be lateness involved”, just as Prince Charles arrives. Jamie, agreeing with the Prince’s statement that the night could be a turning point - although for entirely different reasons - introduces Charles to the Duke. 

Dark has fallen, as Claire and Mary continue to walk. With no sign of her stutter and her face aglow, Mary speaks of her new love, a man by the name of Randall. With visions of Frank’s family tree no doubt stirring in her brain, Claire asks where they met and Mary’s answer makes the identity of her love quite clear: not Black Jack, but Alexander. 

Suddenly, they are set upon. Murtagh is knocked unconscious and Mary and Claire are attacked. As one of the assailants shouts his glee at finding a virgin, the Comte St Germain and his wife are seen arriving at the dinner party, invited by the Duke. This is a departure from the book, as Claire wonders for some time whether one of the assailants was St Germain. Here it becomes quite clear that he is not - although the fact that he could have indeed orchestrated the attack remains a factor. Jamie greets his latest adversary, still unaware of what is occurring on the street. 

As the rape of Mary is completed, an assailant with a port wine stain on his thumb begins his assault on Claire. It is the same stain seen on the man replacing the carriage wheel in the establishing shot at the start of the episode - further evidence that this attack has been planned. Claire’s hood is thrown back and upon seeing her face, the attackers flee, dubbing her “La Dame Blanche” and running in fear of their souls.
This is not explained - although book readers are aware - but it is a turn of events that allows Claire and Mary to escape, assisted by a groggy, but now conscious Murtagh.

Back at the house, Charles is in conversation with the Duke when the deRohans arrive. He is visibly unnerved, dismissing Jules with a wave of his hand and lingering overlong in kissing the hand of Louise. Jamie watches amused, until a servant arrives with news that changes his demeanour. Hurrying outside, he finds Claire and the others.

The scene reinforces the connections between a number of the characters. Jamie immediately goes to Claire and Suzette to Murtagh,

while Alex Randall, who was dining with the butler, has run straight to Mary. While Jamie and Murtagh are intent on setting out immediately to catch the brigands, Claire takes charge. She insists the evening is too important to cancel and issues instructions: they will take Mary upstairs without being seen; Suzette will help her dress and the dinner party will go on. Reluctantly, Jamie agrees. 

Upstairs, Claire has dosed a now sleeping Mary with poppy syrup and leaves her in the care of the devoted Alex, who vows not to leave her side. As Claire dresses, she and Jamie share a hurried conversation about Jamie’s plight. Jamie explains that regardless of the unfairness of the situation, to notify the authorities and call a doctor would publicly shame Mary and ruin her for life. He suspects the Comte as being responsible for the attack and states his wish to go downstairs and cut his head off. This announcement unnerves Claire, who did not realise St Germain was in attendance. 
As Jamie goes down to announce her, Claire takes some deep breaths, to prepare herself for her role as perfect hostess.

By the time she enters the parlour, Claire is a model of composure. Unfazed by the Comte and Duke’s snubs in their refusal to bow, Claire apologises for her lateness and invites the guests in to dinner. Linking her arm through Louise’s, she is quickly updated as to the situation with the baby: Louise has convinced her husband that the baby is his. 

After a brief glimpse of Alex declaring his love for a gently stirring Mary, the scene moves to the elegant dinner table. Claire sits at one end of the table, next to the Comte, while Jamie is at the opposite end.

The Duke is holding court, Prince Charles is getting quickly drunk and Claire stares at the Comte, wondering whether he was indeed the orchestrator of her attack. Jamie moves proceedings along by asking Charles to enlighten everyone as to his plans. The Prince obliges, by stating that it is God’s plan for Charles to reunite the clans and restore a Catholic king to the throne. Louise interrupts at this point, declaring politics to be boring and changes the subject to opera.

This begins the unravelling of Charles, declaring women to be fickle creatures. After a signal from Claire, Jamie publicly congratulates Louise and her husband on their baby. Slightly taken aback, Louise confirms the news. An increasingly drunken and emotional Charles, in a coded message to his lover, speaks of how one can be happy one day and a picture of misery the next, finally describing Jules as being a “man in the dark”. Jamie and Claire’s plan seems to be going without a hitch. Unbeknownst to them however, Mary has awoken upstairs and on finding Alex there, has run from the room.

The Comte’s wife draws attention to Claire’s necklace, at which point the Comte disdainfully explains its significance as a supposedly magic stone, able to detect poison. In barely disguised looks of contempt, the two discuss the need for the wearing of such a stone at the evening’s event. 

The Comte suggests that if Claire is so worried about the cooking in her own home, perhaps all the guests should be wearing a stone. Claire agrees that perhaps he should. 

At this point, the entire evening descends into chaos. A screaming Mary has made it downstairs, with Alex in pursuit, trying to calm her. Rushing into the room, the dinner guests - Mary’s uncle and fiance amongst them - see Alex bodily restraining the terrified woman and perceive it as rape. 

Suddenly Jamie, soon joined by Murtagh, finds himself defending the pair from enraged and drunken men with swords. As punches fly, the Duke takes his leave, lamenting the loss of the dessert course. Charles finds himself engaged in conversation with St Germain, who suggests that they also depart. The Prince is reluctant to leave his friend James with such ruffians, but the Comte remarks that he will take care of it and issues orders to summon the gendarmes.

The episode ends with Claire protecting Mary, Alex cowering on the couch, Jamie and Murtagh swinging punches and young Fergus gleefully helping himself to the remains of a now empty dinner table.

This episode packed a lot into its hour! By far the highlight was the restoration of Jamie and Claire’s relationship - and what a lovely touch that this occurred on either Sam Heughan’s 36th birthday, or Jamie Fraser’s 295th, depending on which country the viewer happened to live in! There are many hidden nods to book viewers scattered throughout and some reviewers have commented that this may have been confusing to the tv only fans. The fact remains though that life is never dull for the Frasers. Danger has reared its head yet again, with the Comte firmly established as a new villain. But most importantly, Jamie and Claire are once again drawing strength from its each other and this is evident throughout the episode. Time will tell how Ron Moore and his team will choose to lead the couple through the upcoming events - but it is only reasonable to suspect that both the fortress and the lean-to will soon be in danger again. 

This recap was written by Susie Brown, a teacher-librarian and author who lives in Australia. She may have clapped when the fortress speech was spoken at last! 

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