NOTE: This review will spoil you rotten, for the books and this episode, so if you like to avoid those, you might want to read something else other than this.
Screencaps by Outlander-Online.
Written by Richard Kahan, he is a first time writer for the show, though he had previously acted on numerous TV shows and normally works as a writing assistant on this series. Directed by Douglas MacKinnon, who also directed the previous episode, La Dame Blanche, this episode was more successful than that one, though it still had problems.
It followed this part of the book pretty closely, more or less, and the episode started out strong, with a scene very like the one in the book, with Claire (Caitriona Balfe) waiting for Jamie (Sam Heughan) to come home after being taken to the Bastille when the gendarmes broke up the brawl at the end of the last episode. Although, this scene wasn’t like it was originally scripted. In the script posted online on the Starz Outlander Community site, there was some stellar bonding between Claire and Fergus (Romann Berrux) with him making sure Claire was safe while they waited for Jamie to return. Which was more like the book.
It’s a shame we lost that bonding moment, but I’m glad they made sure that Jamie and Claire would take such good care of him, like parents would, even if it was a momentary thing.
Claire and Jamie talking about La Dame Blanche and how she got away from the men who attacked her was a little different than in the book, but it made sense how they changed it with Claire being a bit less amused at the idea. I loved how more involved Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) is with the plans that Jamie makes.
I must say that I completely loathe that purple dress that Claire wore to see Mary Hawkins (Rosie Day).
It’s not flattering to Caitriona Balfe’s figure, though I guess it did fit her attitude in the scene. She was there on business, to tend to Mary as a healer and to try to cold-bloodily wrest her further apart from poor Alex (Laurence Dobiesz), so a dress that echoes the harsher silhouettes of a 1940s working woman makes sense.
In the next scene, one that didn’t occur in the book, it was out of character for Claire to seriously contemplate burning Mary’s letter. Claire can be ruthless at times, she has to be in order to perform agonizing procedures on patients without modern anesthetics, but for her to seriously consider condemning Alex Randall to prison for a crime he didn’t commit as a viable option? It’s completely heartless, and Claire just isn’t. If she were, she wouldn’t be a healer. I hate that they made that choice.
Although, the word selection in the scene, and in Claire’s voiceovers, is problematic. She referred to the Jack and Mary’s child as ‘supposedly’ ensuring the bloodline that leads to Frank in the future. I know that Claire is an ‘unreliable’ narrator, there are things she doesn’t know or doesn’t understand, and some of what she thinks are fact are wrong.
If you’ve read the books, and I’m going to spoil you rotten if you haven’t, Frank’s ancestor is NOT Jack Randall, even though Black Jack married Mary Hawkins before the birth and is legally the baby’s father.
The father is actually Alex, but Claire doesn’t know that at this point. Why use the word ‘supposedly,’ then? She talked about Jack being the child’s father on multiple occasions, all with complete certainty, she says so in a later bit of voiceover in this very same episode. So, why the qualifier in this scene? It’s an odd choice, for her being such an unreliable narrator, it was like she knew when she didn’t… It doesn’t make any sense.
The next scene, I swear, was tiresome. Honestly, watching Prince Charles (Andrew Gower) scheme is getting pretty tiring… He’s just not good at it, but that’s likely on purpose, Andrew Gower certainly does a stellar job at selling how completely uninspiring Charles is. The way he plays Charles, he certainly helps reinforce Jamie’s assessment of the Prince as being a poor investment for the Duke of Sandringham (Simon Cowell). The Prince comes across as an idealistic fool, which I believe history shows he was.
I’m glad they added the nice little scene between Alex and Claire. She is playing a part to keep Alex and Mary apart, and it’s troubling to her, but she feels she must to ensure that Frank gets born. The dramatic irony of it is fantastic because her scheming to save Jack’s life isn’t going to make one bit of difference of who fathers Frank’s ancestor, because it’s not Jack.
Another thing that’s a little weird about this part of the series (and the book too) is that Claire doesn’t bring up is the fact that if there’s no Frank, there’s no way she would have come back to begin with.
I mean, if Frank doesn’t get born, if he hadn’t shown her the standing stones on top of that hill, how would Claire have been on the top of Craigh Na Dun to go back to Jamie? By saving Frank, she’s making sure she goes back in time, saving Jamie’s life more than once, but also saving the lives of all the other folks she’s helped and grown to care about.
Maybe they’re trying to avoid getting into overly convoluted explanations of time travel, perhaps especially because Diana hasn’t explained it in the books yet, but I’m surprised Claire hasn’t brought this up. Though, it’s probably a good thing. No one is watching the show (or reading the books) to learn more about how time travel works in this universe (although I wouldn’t mind learning how that is supposed to work), so why waste the time on mystical time travel technobabble?
Anyway, it’s been clear since the first time he laid eyes on our favorite Scot that the Comte St. Germain (Stanley Weber) despises Jamie, but I adored how Stanley Weber had the Comte handle his forced association with Jamie. It’s a terrific change from the book, by the way. In the novel, Jamie had been given the job of selling the port (not madeira, like in the show) behind the Comte’s back. In the series having Jamie and St. Germain being forced to deal with each other gets their mutual animosity out in front and it’s a fantastic opportunity for the actors to show what they can do.
And both actors took advantage and did a terrific job in the scene in the brothel, with Stanley playing St. Germain as condescending and arrogant. Sam did a terrific job playing it casual, but still making the hostility he felt toward St. Germain very clear.
The apostle spoon scene wasn’t in the books, but it’s a very nice addition to the story. A christening gift of a family heirloom is sweet of Jamie to think of. Caitriona has come a long way as an actress… she was terrific in the scene as she voiced her doubts about how effective a mother she will be. And Sam played Jamie perfectly as the proud father-to-be.
The scene at Versailles combines several scenes from the book, and it does that fairly effectively in fact. I wasn’t sure what they were going to do with Claire and Jamie meeting Black Jack again, but I ended up liking this sequence quite a lot.
Well, except for Claire’s dress.
I’ve read what Costume Designer Terry Dresbach’s intent was with the clothes in this section of the season, trying to blend Claire’s 1940s design sensibilities with 18th Century ones, trying to set her apart, but man… isn’t the fabric of this dress TOO modern? It echoes the 1940s in design, but would a weaver in 1740s France believably be able to produce fabric like that?
Also, I am not a fan of the yellow gloves at all. Something less like Playtex Living Gloves probably would have helped. I liked the dress better at the end of the episode when she wasn’t wearing the hat or the gloves.
Although, I’d kill to have a pair of opal earrings like Claire wore in this scene. They’re gorgeous.
Another thing I didn’t like was the little stroll around the grounds with Annalise de Marillac (Margaux Chatelier). I’m not sure what they could have cut from this part of the episode, but they should have cut something.
It was fairly pointless scene in my mind which revealed nothing I really cared about. The writer’s note in the online script explained that he liked how it gave Claire some insight into her relationship with Jamie… That may have been the intent of that interchange between Annalise and Claire, but it isn’t really how I perceived it.
I can see how the conversation went as in keeping with Annalise’s character, she’s probably looking for some flaw in Jamie’s relationship with Claire so she can exploit it to win Jamie back. That makes sense for Annalise’s motivations, but it’s completely out of character for Claire. I just can’t see her keeping to the social niceties in the face of Annalise’s attempt to feel out her relationship with Jamie to find any weaknesses.
Claire’s not exactly the shy type. I know she’s largely playing a part in this section of the season, playing along with her expected role of what is, more or less, an 18th Century socialite. She’s got the vapid friends and the parties to go to, along with fabulous dresses, a beautiful house, tons of servants, and a handsome husband, but she certainly isn’t having any fun playing the socialite. So, I don’t buy her taking Annalise’s crap about Jamie. At. All.
There could only be one reason for a widowed former love interest wanting to know more about Jamie, but in the end she only validated Jamie’s and Claire’s relationship by saying that she turned Jamie into a man? Did Claire, or the viewers, really need to hear her say that? Why would Claire stay polite and follow the social niceties in this conversation? I don’t buy Claire putting up with Annalise’s bullshit. At all.
This part of the scene was almost a complete waste of time, especially given that we never see Annalise again. To me, in the end, the conversion revealed little of value, and seemed out of character for Claire, so it was the weakest part of the script.
What I did like a lot in this scene, once Claire was done talking with Annalise and Jamie was done dealing with the Duke of Sandringham (Simon Cowell), speaking of catty conversations, was when Black Jack (Tobias Menzies) gets introduced back into the show.
Tobias was wonderful as Jack. The joy he found in discovering that Jamie was on the premises was terrific. The way that Tobias played it, Jack enjoyed making Claire to interact with him, which was an absolutely pleasant surprise for him.
Things only ramped up in marvelous ways in the short scene with King Louis XIV (Lionel Lingelser), who was fantastic as the King’s own catty self. I adored how much he enjoyed toying with Jack, especially when he seemed to realize just how much Jamie and Claire detest the man. Being an English officer probably did little to endear him to the King.
Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe were both fantastic in the final scene of the episode. I loved that Jamie, when talking to Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix), was playing with a soft rag ball, like Claire had prescribed he do in the book to keep the fingers in his wounded hand flexible. It was a nice touch, and reportedly a suggested addition by Sam Heughan.
Once Claire and Jamie got into the meat of the scene, Caitriona and Sam were brilliant. Claire’s ploy to basically get Jamie into agreeing to her demand to cancel the duel was a desperate act which, honestly, I’m not sure played all that well in the book, but Caitriona played it well here and Sam was terrific in playing Jamie’s anger and frustration.
While this particular episode did a very good job compressing several series of events into one episode, it wasn’t perfect. I’m sorry Fergus’ bonding with Claire was cut as much as it was, and I really detest Claire’s scene with Annalise, but overall this was a very good episode, even if some of the details didn’t make sense.