A note on spoilers: Please be aware that while I work diligently to avoid extensive spoilers in my recaps, these entries will discuss each episode's plot and may include key details from the show's first season as well as the books on which both seasons are based.
"Even after several weeks, Paris itself remained an endless source of fascination. As I gazed upon the quaint city streets I found it hard to believe that in a mere forty years French Revolution would turn them into rivers of blood." Claire (Outlander, Not in Scotland Anymore)
The second episode in Book Two of the Starz original drama Outlander takes viewers to 1745 Paris as Claire and Jamie plot their course to divert the Scottish rebellion. We meet them in episode two, Not in Scotland Anymore, three months after their arrival in France as they continue to adjust to their new roles. As Claire deals with the task of running a great house in cosmopolitan Paris she struggles as she watches Jamie wrestle every night with the horrors of his past. Still consumed by the memories of Black Jack’s torture, Jamie’s demons come to him in the form of nightmares and unpredictable flashes. Desperate to help him, Claire seeks the advice of Master Raymond (Dominique Pinon), a Frenchman who owns an apothecary in Paris and shares Claire’s dislike of the venomous Comte St. Germain.
Murtagh, meanwhile, is far from impressed by the French way of life, a fact he makes known in one of the episode’s most delightful scenes as he and Jamie test the young laird’s strength in a mock duel, the seemingly more demure French gentlemen and gentlewomen looking on in shocked displeasure. "Dinna fash," Jamie tells a homesick Murtagh who has admitted to missing even Rupert and Angus; "We won’t be here forever." To which Murtagh grumbles, "No, but it’ll seem so." The surly Highlander, however, appears to be far more accepting of his circumstances later on when he witnesses some of the more risqué fashion choices that are all the rage for women in Louis XV’s court.
In many ways this episode shows us more sides of Murtagh as he is put through moments of humor, embarrassment, delight, and fierce anger. His patience, indeed, is put to the test when he accompanies Jamie to a meeting with Bonnie Prince Charlie (Andrew Gower), an event Jared has orchestrated seemingly with little effort, granting the Frasers access to the prince much sooner than they anticipated. That the meeting is to take place in a brothel is perhaps indicative of the Stuart prince’s frame of mind. "The man," Murtagh later tells Claire, "is a blockhead, and a dangerous one at that." Naïve and over-confident in his ability to lead the charge in a land on which he has never set foot, Stuart believes his right to the British throne is a divine one, and that God Himself wills that a Catholic king be the supreme ruler of England.
Now in a position to dissuade Charles from his agenda, Jamie attempts to argue the clans’ unpreparedness as reason, at least, to halt any plans that might lead to a battle like Culloden. He tells Charles of the tensions between and within the clans, which of course we saw much of in the show’s first season. But Charles, as Jamie tells Claire, only listens to God, and he is not put off by either Jamie’s entreaty – “defeatist talk”, Stuart calls it – nor by the opinion which Murtagh offers in an eloquent and surprisingly poignant speech.
"Ken this: Scotland is a beautiful country; its glens, its lochs, its mountains. We’re a people of the land, a simple people with no great love for outsiders. We will fight – have fought each other more than naught – but you ask us to shed our blood for what? To put a more sympathetic ass on the British throne? Is that cause enough for a cotter to exchange his scythe for a sword? To leave his home, his family, his crops and charge into a cannon’s blast?" Murtagh (Outlander, Not in Scotland Anymore)
On a mission from the unwavering Charles, the Frasers and Murtagh immerse themselves in the French court where Charles requests that Jamie advocate for his position and raise funds for the Jacobite cause. As entry into the glamorous and refined society of Louis XV’s court undoubtedly falls to Claire, the episode takes viewers from men’s business being conducted in brothels to women’s business being conducted in salons – in particular, that of Louise de La Tour (Claire Sermonne), the vivacious and bold royal who has befriended Claire in her months in Paris. Through Louise, Claire gains invitation to the king’s court, an introduction to Louise’s mild-mannered British niece with the familiar name of Mary Hawkins (Rosie Day), and a collaboration with a French designer that leads to the revealing of that astonishing red dress that took readers’ breath away in the novel.
"Paris. I told ye that dress would bring us grief." Jamie (Outlander, Not in Scotland Anymore)
There are many scenes in this episode that echo the more spirited and witty tone of Dragonfly in Amber, a contrast to the more melancholic atmosphere of the premiere – and the reactions of Jamie and Murtagh to Claire’s dress are not least among those scenes. Things take turns, though, of course they do; toward progress, toward futility, hilarity and horror alike as Claire and Jamie meet with a series of unexpected happenings in Versailles. Alliances are forged and old enemies resurface – some even from the grave – as the Frasers take on the French court.
At times riotously funny and deeply moving, the second episode in Outlander’s newest adapted adventure captures all the extravagance and all the heart of Gabaldon’s lushly realized story. Fans of the show can rejoice at the full return of the series with a stunning, luminous new standard. Vive les Frasers, indeed.