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.
"Remember I told ye I was lost?" "You were trying to hide under a blade of grass." "Well, I think perhaps ye've built me a lean-to, at the least, and a roof to keep out the rain." Jamie and Claire (Outlander: La Dame Blanche)
The Frasers are on a new path in this weekend’s fourth episode of Outlander when a bit of gossip provokes them to set the scene for a scandal. When last we met Claire and Jamie, the Scottish warrior was inspired at the realization that their mission had made progress with the discovery of secret dealings between Charles Stuart and the Duke of Sandringham; Claire, however, was less enthused by the realization that further involvement with Sandringham would inevitably lead to Jamie unearthing the truth about Black Jack Randall’s fate. One adventure is never without opposing forces for the Laird and Lady Broch Turach.
The fourth episode of the season, La Dame Blanche, written by executive producer Toni Graphia and beautifully directed by Douglas MacKinnon, takes viewers to Versailles where Claire, attending one of Jamie’s chess games with Duverney, has a run-in with the deceptive Comte de St. Germain – and, only moments later, with a suspiciously familiar potion mixed into her drink that acts like a non-fatal poison. Later prompted by her memories to visit Master Raymond upon her return to Paris, Claire finds both the confirmation of an ally and a shocking glimpse into the future of which she cannot begin to make sense. Worried about “an old friend” named Frank, she is invited by Raymond to explore her question of him through magic fortune-telling African stones, which he reads to reveal that she will see Frank again. Comforting news, he presumes, but of course to Claire it provokes an entirely new world of questions – and maybe even fear.
Of the many terrific performances in the second season so far, some of my favorite moments have been the brief yet meaningful scenes between Raymond and Claire as two pillars of reason and insight in a time driven by desire and exclusivity. Brilliantly cast and wonderfully brought to life, Raymond (played by Dominique Pinon) exudes a certain quixotic charm, mysteriousness, and an air of determined purpose that makes him a delightful supporter of Claire in his way. Yet his elusiveness keeps him a mystery as he stays just withdrawn enough to keep the inner-workings of his mind entirely to himself; again, much like our lion-hearted heroine.
Claire’s questions of a possible future reunion with Frank remain unasked as the Frasers begin to move quickly in pursuit of their newest plan: hosting a dinner party at which Stuart and the duke will meet in person for the first time. It’s Claire and Jamie’s hope that they can devise a plot to unsettle Charles with the agenda that he might reveal to Sandringham how truly unprepared he really is to lead the uprising, solving their problem of Culloden once and for all. Just such motivation is made available to them when first Louise reveals to Claire that she is pregnant, and later when a most informal visit form a rain-soaked Charles at an unfathomable hour allows Claire to make a startling connection. Unbeknownst of his friends’ observations, Stuart is in the crosshairs for a public scandal – and the Frasers intention to pull the trigger.
"We use his broken heart to break his bank." "Oh, God. Does this make us bad people?" "The way I see it, we're doing a bad thing, but for a good reason." "Isn't that what all bad people say?" Jamie and Claire (Outlander: La Dame Blanche)
With thoughts of St. Germain’s possible attack on her now driven from her mind, Claire focuses entirely on Jamie and their upcoming dinner. When first they devise the scheme, Claire knows she can’t ignore the burden of Randall’s fate hanging over her. What results is a wonderful two scenes between Jamie and Claire as the unspoken trauma of Wentworth Prison finally reaches a boiling point and the two are finally able to come out from underneath the wreckage of Black Jack’s terror. Using the phrasing the two have created around their struggle, Jamie is once again able to find his way back to Claire, to life, and to wholeness. It’s unquestionable that a great deal of the adaptation’s success lies on the shoulders of Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe, and in these scenes the two prove again to be up to the challenge, as well as being exquisitely paired in their chemistry. Audiences are given the same sense of true and undeviating love between Claire and Jamie on the screen just as they witness it across the pages of Diana Gabaldon’s novels.
With one dark cloud lifted, however, another takes shape when Claire, Murtagh, and Mary are attacked on the road from Mother Hildegarde’s hospital by an apparent band of footpaths. The assailants flee at the sight of Claire once unhooded – “La Dame Blanche”, they call her, or “The White Lady” – but not before enacting treacherous and irrevocable pain onto one member of Claire’s party. It’s in this frazzled state that Claire returns home later for their dinner party and subsequent subterfuge, but with a few deep breaths and her dependably unshakable nerve, she steels herself to come once again face-to-face with St. Germain all the while wondering if he knows about – or, indeed, is in any measure responsible for – the reasons of her delay. And while all goes disastrously as planned and Jamie smoothly sets Stuart up to be publicly unhinged, it is a different distraction – one that points a devious accusation at an innocent man – that will ultimately lead to the undoing of their event.
As viewers wait to see how the Frasers will pick up the pieces after the latest attempt to quash the rebellion, they will in the meantime find themselves satiated by rewatching this week’s episode to relive all the charm, beauty, and breathtaking drama that so brilliantly captures what readers love about Claire and Jamie’s continuing adventure.