[This is not a spoiler-free review/recap of the episode. If you have not seen the episode yet, read it at your own spoiler risk.]
Episode 204, “La Dame Blanche”
Written by Toni Graphia, Directed by Douglas Mackinnon
“Remember I told you I was lost. You’ve built me a lean-to. With a good roof to keep out the rain.”
Up until now, Outlander Season Two has been about introducing a new change of pace and place. There’s been a lot of setting the scene for future events to unfold.
In Episode 204, “La Dame Blanche,” or The Lady in White, the storyline catapults into action. Considering the episode’s title, Claire (Caitriona Balfe) remains cloaked in dark, almost ominous colors. Only when she is most vulnerable, worried about Jamie (Sam Heughan) and their bairne, is she literally dressed in white, with nothing but her shift. I enjoyed the juxtaposition, which according to numerous interviews with costume designer Terry Dresbach is completely intentional. She uses the minimal costuming as a visual device that pushes the viewer’s focus to the dialogue of the scene. Nearly all of Jamie and Claire’s heavy conversations occur in similar fashion this episode.
I loved the tip-of-the hat to the first season; there’s the moment early on when Claire, cascaded in blue light, informs Jamie of Black Jack Randall’s (Tobias Menzies) survival. He responds simply, “Thank you, truly.” This is a callback to a handful of their early exchanges in season one, when they were merely traveling companions and friends. It feels like it was so long ago, when in the story arch, it was practically last year.
And here lies my only gripe. Ron D. Moore and friends frequently make the claim “it was like an entirely different show,” when referencing season two’s production. At times I find myself forgetting the journey that preceded France. On one hand it’s a tribute to Moore and his incredible staff, but its moments like the aforementioned that jolt my memory of where we’ve been. I hope they continue to weave threads from season one into the tapestry of season two. (OK, off my soapbox.)
It was also refreshing to see our two protagonists finally back on the same page. I once read an interview with Outlander author Diana Gabaldon in which she said that in Dragonfly In Amber (I’m paraphrasing here) Jamie and Claire experience newlywed “growing pains.” They’re learning how to live together. I felt like this was beautifully demonstrated. Up until now, they’ve been solely motivated. Remember how sore Jamie was at her late arrival home in last week’s episode? They finally made their way back to one another tonight. “Come find me, Jamie,” Claire said.
And lest we not forget the oh so subtle Easter Egg moment when Louise tells Claire of her pregnancy by a man not her husband. Claire’s response? “All that matters is that the child is brought up with love.” If that’s not foreshadowing (post-shadowing?) details previously revealed in Episode 201 “Through the Glass Darkly,” when Frank assumes responsibility over Jamie’s unborn child, then I don’t know anything about anything.
Some of the details from the novels change, but the overall impact–my love affair with these characters–remains fully intact. I can’t wait for the rest of Dragonfly In Amber to unfold.
As the opening credits finish, the camera pans up the cobblestoned streets of France. We see an abandoned dagger in front of a broken carriage wheel.
Inside Versailles, Jamie and Minister Duverney are at it again hunched over a chessboard. But this time Claire is ever vigilant, standing at his side. She rubs her belly as Duverney inquires about the baby’s name. Claire wants to name him after the uncle who raised her, “Uncle Lamb” or Lambert. Jamie appears perplexed with a tinge of “are you frigging kidding me?!” arguing that it’s “a wee bit English.” Clearly thrown off his chess game, he suggests an alternate name: Dalhousie (as in the castle). Claire remarks the name sounds like a sneeze. I believe that’s an example of onomatopoeia: when a word sounds phonetically like the thing it is.
Le Comte St. Germain appears. He surveys the chessboard briefly before revealing the eventual outcome, in favor of Duverney. Claire and Jamie are clearly skeptical of his presence. Le Comte continues disparaging their game. Jamie concedes defeat, but Duverney considers it a draw, admitting Jamie was clearly distracted. Claire, assuming responsibility, exits Jamie’s company in search of another means for preoccupation. Jamie and Duverney rotate seats and they begin again.
Meanwhile Claire receives a glass of wine from a servant. Though not side-by-side, Jamie and Claire keep a keen eye on one another. And the room. Duverney confides to Jamie that the French King is “intrigued” by a French-English alliance. Jamie feigns mild excitement at this, claiming the news to be “encouraging.” Claire takes a healthy swallow of her beverage, when Le Comte enters the frame. Her cocktail does not sit well and she doubles over coughing and wheezing. Jamie notices her panicked state and immediately swoops in, scoops her up and gets her safely home. Le Comte wears a suspicious look of satisfaction at their departure.
Back at home Claire is in bed, but weak. She tells Jamie she doubts she was poisoned. She explains to him the effects of cascara, the concoction she discussed with Master Raymond in episode 203; that when ingested, only mimics the effects of poison. Jamie comforts her with a cup of tea and inquires to the safety of Claire’s special cargo. The bairne is fine. They discuss potential assailants, including Le Comte and his servants. Jamie yearns for revenge. Claire admits she’d enjoy it also. But with the lack of sufficient evidence combined with the potential damage brought on by a scandal, they agree to bide their time. Claire experiences a cramp and begs Jamie for a distraction, further details about Duverney. Jamie informs her of the French king’s interest in an alliance. Then Jamie has his epiphany.
“What if we host a dinner for the Duke? … The Duke and the Prince have never met in person. The Duke will want to take the measure of the Prince. Decide if he’s a person worth staking his fortune and his life on.”
Jamie lays out the plan: stage the evening to showcase the Prince’s weaknesses and create doubt with his potential stakeholders, namely the Duke of Sandringham (Simon Callow). Claire agrees verbally, but her face betrays her. She tells Jamie of Black Jack Randall’s existence. “Jack Randall is alive.” To her shock, Jamie is thrilled, like a schoolboy on a snow day. He expresses his utter relief in the knowledge that he now has the opportunity for revenge, and can therefore put his demons to rest. “Thank you, truly,” he says and kisses her and then her belly.
The next morning, Murtagh and Claire cross paths. He notes the spring in Jamie’s step. Claire reveals their secret about Black Jack is out. Murtagh’s eyebrows do a thing and they part ways.
Soon after, Claire visits Mater Raymond’s apothecary to interrogate him about the cascara. His assistant abruptly informs him they have a spy. Raymond invites Claire into a hidden room within his shop. (This part for me was straight from the book, animal skulls and all.) She is immediately intrigued. Claire is curious and picks up a dinosaur skull. Raymond seems to peer into her soul but in a nonthreatening sort of way as he mentions his fascination with things “not from this time.” He then calls to question what is really bothering her.
“I’m worried about an old friend,” she says. “His name is Frank.”
Raymond reaches for his cup of sheep knucklebones. Claire is familiar with a similar fortune-telling ritual practiced by the Zulu tribes in Africa. She tosses the bones onto a zebra skin. Raymond insists that though he cannot read Frank’s fate, she is not to worry, as she will see him again. Claire appears dumbstruck. “That’s what the bones say,” he says before offering her a totem for protection, a stone that changes color when exposed to poison: a “magic stone.” She takes it.
After, we see Claire at her friend Louise’s home, feigning excitement over a new cuckoo clock. Young Mary Hawkins is there and clearly delighted by the interactive device. Louise is pleased with her new toy, yet quickly dismisses Mary, reminding her to leave the pet monkey alone, so the grown-ups may speak freely. She then confesses to Claire that she is with child, and not by her husband. She asks Claire for her assistance in correcting the situation. Claire talks Louise through her options including induced termination as well as leaving her husband for the child’s father. Louise insists that’s not possible. They settle on the decision to convince Louise’s husband that the child is his.
“You mean sleep with my husband? But my lover would be furious!”
After a long and sordid day, Claire is finally home, tucked away in bed. Jamie returns and greets her with a kiss. He is unusually excited in her doings and in her. He strips quickly and climbs into bed, feeling amorous. She reciprocates. And then she sees them. Bite marks on his upper thighs. “WTH is that?!” Jamie admits a whore at the whorehouse did get a bit carried away but he swears that nothing happened. When Claire asks if the marks are from “that brunette whore Fergus is always talking about,” Jamie confirms it is not. It’s a different girl entirely, but apparently she’s really into “swasell neuf” (sixty-nine).
Naturally Claire is pissed. Jamie insists (and admits) he was both tempted but also relieved. The couple finally come to terms with the fact that they haven’t been intimate since Jamie’s rescue. Jamie admits that prior to Claire’s acknowledgment of Black Jack’s existence, he felt mentally trapped during their romantic moments, unable to separate reality from memory. She acknowledges that she feels abandoned, preparing for the child alone. Claire struggles but finally sees his post-traumatic stress for what it is, something he battles every day.
“There was this place inside me. A place I think everyone has that they keep to themselves. A fortress. Where the most private part of you lives. Maybe it’s your soul. The bit that makes you yourself and not anyone else. But after Wentworth, it was like my fortress was blown apart. The thing that once lived there was exposed in the open without shelter. That’s where I’ve been ever since. Naked. Alone. Trying to hide under a blade of grass.”
He retires to the daybed for the evening. Too much has been said. Claire goes to him in the night, but he’s not asleep. He lays awake, pensive. She is calm now too and looking to mend her wounds and his. They make love, visually pregnant love. This was a scene of great contention, one the actors fought hard to keep in the final edit. And it’s beautiful.
The pair remain cuddled together in bed after, and it’s as if a weight has been lifted for these two (and the viewer). They seem lighter somehow. With their bond re-forged, the universe returns to balance. Briefly. Their moment of intimacy vanishes when Jamie hears footsteps on the roof. Dagger in hand, he swings the windows open and pulls the intruder in. It’s the Bonnie Prince and he is sopping from the rain and apologizing for the disturbance. Jamie, irritated, remains calm and welcomes him, formally presenting Claire who is in nothing but her shift and robe. She inquires about an injury to his right hand. He requests her medical services and a whisky, stat.
As she cleans and bandages the wound, the Prince tells the story of how he and his lover were quarreling, and upon her husband’s untimely return, was forced to flee. In the process, her “pet monkey” bit him. She was in the process of ending it with him at the time, making matters worse. He then gallantly declares his intent to win her back. Upon learning of the pet monkey, Claire realizes Louise is the Prince’s lover. Which means the Prince is the father of Louise’s baby.
Jamie and Claire see the Prince on his way. They retreat to the dining room for a nightcap and some spousal gossip. That’s when they have a stroke of genius. They are clearly back in synch: use the sordid love affair to their advantage. The two modify their dinner party plan and invite Louise and her husband who are now “expecting.” Says Jamie “We’ll use his broken heart to break his bank.” Claire worries they are officially “bad” people. Jamie rebuts it’s in the name of a good cause. They kiss.
One week later, the dining room is set for the party that night. But Claire is off to the hospital. An explosion at the armory has left seven patients in critical condition. She swears to be back before sunset and ready to receive guests. Jamie says fine but insists she take Murtagh and Fergus. Her two escorts kill time outside the hospital by throwing daggers and engaging in some amusing conversation. They are interrupted by Mary Hawkins who informs them Claire will be an hour longer. Fergus frets, as this is not in accordance with their schedule. After she leaves, perceptive Fergus points out to Murtagh that Mary is heartbroken she must marry a suitor while she loves another. Intrigued, Murtagh asks of the house maiden Suzette, and if she is in love with anyone. Fergus says yes, anyone willing to pay her attention.
Meanwhile inside the hospital, Claire is busy assisting another doctor with a patient suffering from a broken tibia. Bouton is busy too. The lead medic inserts a pin into the patient’s leg and taps with a hammer. Instantly, the patient’s screams cease. He’s not dead, but the pain is neutralized. Impressed, Claire asks what just happened. He explains that by piercing a specific nerve, you can numb the pain briefly. They get to work setting the broken bone. He hands Claire a jar of ointment to soothe the wounds. She asks him of the balm’s contents. “Hangman’s grease,” he says. “Made from the rendered fat of hanged criminals.” Mary looks like she wants to vomit as she rubs the grease between her fingers. Claire dismisses her. The medic tends to another patient and Mother Hildegarde informs her that when he is not at the hospital, he is in fact the Royal Executioner. She goes on to compliment Claire’s skill as a healer.
With her workday done, Claire leaves the hospital set on returning home in her carriage, which is now out of commission due to a broken wheel. The group: Claire, Murtagh, and Mary, set off for home on foot. Meanwhile the guests are arriving and Jamie is handling the meet and greet solo. But instead of being angry by Claire’s tardiness, like in last week’s episode, he remains calm. He knows that if she’s late, she has reason for it. The Duke of Sandringham arrives with nothing but salutations, words of flattery and his secretary Alex. Alex Randall, Black Jack Randall’s younger brother. Jamie remains composed. Additional guests file in one at a time including Mary Hawkins’ uncle Silas Hawkins and her betrothed, a stout man thrice her age and with a creepy disposition. Time ticks away and before we know it, it’s 8 o’clock and Claire is still not home. Jamie is getting worried but sees to his hosting duties. Thankfully, Fergus arrives ahead of the others and informs Jamie of the delay. Then the Prince arrives. Jamie introduces him to Sandringham.
Back in the city, Claire, Mary and Murtagh make their way home. It’s dark now, and Mary confesses to Claire that she is in love with a man with whom she’s been secretly corresponding for weeks. She reveals its Alex Randall. Claire stops in her tracks. Murtagh, who is following the ladies hears a noise. He turns around and an assailant leaps on him from a rooftop. They are ambushed and Murtagh is knocked unconscious. Claire does her best to scream and call attention but to no avail. Young Mary Hawkins, who is afraid of sexual congress to begin with, is beaten and raped.
Back to Jamie. To his dismay, Sandringham has invited Le Comte St. Germain and his wife into the Fraser home. Jamie remains the consummate host, but is weary of his uninvited guests.
During Claire, Murtagh and Mary’s violent attack, one of the masked assailants removes Claire’s hood. He is disturbed to realize they are attacking “La Dame Blanche.” The men make the sign of the cross and run away screaming “Save your soul! La Dame Blanche!” Claire grabs Mary and cradles her.
At the party, Louise and her husband finally arrive. Jamie is sure to make introductions immediately. Prince Charlie lingers a little too long for comfort as he takes Louise’s hand in greeting. Concurrently, a servant notifies Jamie that Claire and party are in distress. Discretely, he abandons his guests to Claire’s aid. She and Murtagh summarize the attack. Murtagh is carrying an unconscious Mary but Jamie’s only concern is for Claire and the bairne. She tells him they’re both alright. Just then, Alex Randall appears to help tend to his love, Mary.
Jamie asks Murtagh if he recognized their attackers. Murtagh mentions the masks and the two prepare to set out for revenge. Claire puts a halt to this and insists they commit to the plan at hand and attempt to sabotage the prince. She sends Fergus for her medical box and they take Mary inside to rest and heal. Jamie attempts to argue but Claire shuts it down. After tending to Mary, Claire asks Alex, already at the bedside, to look after her if she wakes. Suzette, Claire’s maid, helps her dress in a flash. Jamie points out that it’s not too late to cancel the whole shindig as dinner is not yet served. Claire demands they press on. Also she wants to contact the authorities about Mary, but Jamie argues against the idea, pointing out that should anyone discover Mary is no longer a virgin, she’ll have little left to keep her reputation intact; a fact Claire still has trouble reconciling considering. Jamie reveals Le Comte St, Germain is in attendance and Claire panics slightly. They comfort one another briefly and Jamie leaves the room.
Claire takes a few deep breaths, psychs herself up, puts her game face on and welcomes her guests. She apologizes for her delay and invites her guests to dine. She dons her necklace of protection.
She and Louise swap a few sisterly words, and Louise confirms her husband think’s the baby is his. Up in Mary’s room, Alex speaks soft words to her while she sleeps. “It’s ok now. I’ll take care of you.” Claire sits at one head of her table, flanked by Le Comte on her right and his wife Le Comtess on her left. As Sandringham tells tails of meeting with the Pope at the Vatican, Prince Charles is already irritated, as the Pope did not grace his own divine presence in person. Jamie and Claire swap glances across the table that seem to say “Yaaaaazzzz.”
Claire presses the Duke to make a joke, counting on his penchant for tacky humor. Success. He tells a joke belittling short people. The prince is not amused. St Germain and Claire exchange sordid and threatening glances. The prince, a short man, attempts to speak of his future uprising, but Louise interjects, wishing to talk about the opera, something she and her husband both “love.” Sandringham and guests seem relieved by the lighthearted topic. The prince chimes in again and asks Sandringham if he has ever taken a wife. Sandringham admits to never having found a woman to put up with him. The prince continues to cast aspersions of the fairer sex, clearly looking to insult Louise.
Then Claire gives Jamie the signal. It’s go time. Time to drop the bomb. Jamie raises his glass, “I understand congratulations are in order for Madam and the Marquis” he says, publicly announcing their pregnancy. Louise is taken aback but maintains her composure in speaking of their excitement as a couple. Prince Charlie looks as if someone just kicked his puppy. But he raises a glass and wishes them both eternal happiness. That was not the plan. He finishes his wine in one swallow, slams down his glass and proceeds to insult Louise’s husband. Things are back on track.
Mary wakes disturbed and panicking by a man’s presence at her bedside. Alex tries to calm her but she hits him and flees the room. Back at dinner, Le Comtess comments on Claire’s stone necklace. Le Comte points out its supposed magic properties. The dining conversation ceases when a young woman is heard screaming in the next room. It’s Mary reliving the attack. Alex chases after her attempting to calm her. They fall to the floor, him on top of her. The guests file suite into the sitting room and assumptions are made. It does not look good. Jamie intervenes, removing Alex from the situation but it’s too late. Mary’s relations think Alex is defiling her and are hell-bent on defending her virtue. Jamie attempts to diffuse the situation and explain, but tempers are raging and the drinks have been flowing.
A full-scale brawl erupts in Claire’s living room. Claire removes Mary from harm’s way and Sandringham decides it’s time to go. And then Murtagh enters the fight, kilt and all. As he raises his dagger to wield a terminal blow, Jamie grabs his wrist, giving him a “thanks brah, but not here, not now” kind of look. Le Comte uses the diversion as an opportunity to escort the Prince home.
The episode ends with Fergus taking advantage of a fully spread and abandoned dinner table and Jamie knocking a man out with what looks like an ornate curtain tassel.
Next week’s episode, titled “Untimely Resurrection,” airs May 7th on Starz.
Reunited, Jamie and Claire attempt to extinguish the fires their dinner party ignited; however, Claire is set off on an unexpected change of course. Jamie and Claire’s relationship is put to the ultimate test when the past rears its ugly head.
Source (Photos and Clips): Starz