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.
"I only have a vague memory of my own mother. Nothing really to guide me." "What ye don't ken ye'll learn. We'll learn. Together." Claire and Jamie (Outlander: Untimely Resurrection)
The fifth episode in Outlander’s second season – or, we could say, the fifth chapter of “Book Two” – brings drama in full force to rival the Fraser dinner party disaster; and it would take quite a bit, of course, to one-up that particular fiasco. Untimely Resurrection speaks volumes of the episode’s biggest plot point right in the title, which readers will remember as Chapter 21 of Dragonfly in Amber, but viewers must hold their breath for a bit in anticipation of one character’s cinematic return to the story. In the meantime, writer Richard Kahan continues the adaptation’s quietly nuanced rendering of the beloved novels.
We meet again with Claire and a dozing Fergus after the dinner party and its ensuing brawl has been broken up by the gendarmes resulting in the arrests of all the men involved. But while Jamie and Murtagh, along with most of the other attendees, are quickly released on the order of Duverney, poor innocent Alex Randall remains locked away in the Bastille on suspicion of attacking the ravished Mary Hawkins. Though Claire knows the truth of his innocence, she can only wait as Sandringham severs ties with the younger Randall, leaving him to whatever fate might await him at the hands of the French authorities.
Finally with a moment to catch each other up after the events of the last episode, Claire tells Jamie about the attackers’ fear of her likeness to the mysterious La Dame Blanche, the rumored witch. It becomes Jamie’s turn to reveal the rumor's origin and its correlation to his attempts at protecting his fidelity to her from Stuart’s persistent mistresses at Maison Elise while also, he explains, “so as not to appear unmanly.” Claire receives this information with the mix of amusement and outrage that one would expect, but the paramount realization between them seems to be that the assailants must have frequented the brothel to have heard the rumors that likely saved the lives of Claire and Mary. Suspecting that the brigands were hired by St. Germain, Jamie begins the act of tracking them down by entrusting a despondent Murtagh, embarrassed at his failure to protect the women, with the task of following the elusive Comte.
"I will lay just vengeance at yer feet or be damned." Murtagh (Outlander: Untimely Resurrection)
For Claire, things take a devastating turn when she finds herself faced with an impossible decision. When Mary entrusts her with the delivery of a letter that will save Alex Randall from the gallows, circumstances arise that could very well thwart Frank’s future existence. It falls to her to risk one man’s innocent life for the freedom of another, or likewise to commit an innocent man to death to safeguard her former husband’s future. In touching scenes between first Claire and Mary followed by Claire and Alex we see this impossible dilemma unfold and witness the turmoil of Claire’s situation: she longs to give Mary the safety, freedom, and love she so truly deserves from Alex, yet her love and commitment to Frank pulls her violently in another direction. Emphasizing the enormity of Claire’s choice are the heartbreaking performances from Laurence Dobiesz and Rosie Day as Alex and Mary. With their only significant screen time together being predominantly just last week’s poignant scenes of Alex protect a sleeping Mary, the two have a marvelous air of innocence and devotion between them that sparks an undeniable chemistry and leads Claire to understand that she could very likely ruin their happiness, perhaps forever.
"It broke my heart to break his. Alex and Mary clearly loved one another and I was robbing them of happiness. But what choice did I have?" Claire (Outlander: Untimely Resurrection)
Jamie’s plot to take down the alley attackers, meanwhile, is given surprising aid in the form of a disastrous new scheme from Charles Stuart. Now in an unspoken partnership with the anti-Jacobite St. Germain, Stuart intends to loan the Comte money toward a shipment of Portuguese wine that will ultimately result in a hefty profit for the Scottish prince. Though it won’t sufficiently fund his rebellion, Stuart hopes the investment in ships and firepower will impress Duverney into convincing the king to finally offer his support. Tensions are high when Stuart appoints Jamie as his man for the "workman's concerns" of the partnership and the Highlander finds himself in an intimate meeting with St. Germain himself. But while Jamie and Clare plot to infect St. Germain’s crew with a smallpox-like disease that will hopefully spoil the sale of the wine, their focus takes a significant turn when a visit to the royal stables finds them in the shadow of that very untimely resurrection.
"Since you brought up my wife, let me make this clear: someone tried to poison her, attacked her in the street, and then raped her friend. My memory is as long as yours. When I find the man responsible he'll die a very slow and very painful death." Jamie (Outlander: Untimely Resurrection)
The episode hits its climactic boiling point as Claire and Jamie once again come face-to-face with a moderately injured but very much alive Jack Randall. In his first full turn as the sinister half of his dual roles this season, Tobias Menzies again drapes his performance in the haunting devilry that separates malevolent Black Jack from his charming, well-intentioned descendant Frank. Once more the genteel nature of the scholarly Frank melts into a memory as the devious energy dominates Jack’s very presence. With such shocking strength does Menzies move himself between the two performances that it’s rather easy for the audience to forget that they are watching the same actor. It’s a transition that never fails to be extraordinary.
"This is unbelievable. The fates are toying with us now, setting our feet on seemingly divergent paths that still somehow converge in the most unlikely of places. Claire, surely you of all people can step outside the passions of the moment and appreciate the sublime preposterousness of the universe that would guide us to a meeting at the French court." Black Jack Randall (Outlander: Untimely Resurrection)
Although the Frasers – and, indeed, the viewers – get some satisfaction from seeing Randall publicly humiliated by Louis XV, the scene leaves us feeling suspended in reality as we watch Jamie almost physically struggle to maintain his composure even as he wishes to slaughter Randall where he stands – risking his own surely instantaneous death from committing such an act in front of the king. Dueling is likewise forbidden in France, and as much as Jamie can contain his fury while in the king’s presence, he understandably cannot contain it much longer afterward.
Once again in a position of needing to protect Frank’s future, Claire must this time intervene to save the life of the man she most detests. But the cost of this decision puts Jamie and Claire’s newly redeemed relationship at an all-new breaking point; and knowing what she does of Jack Randall, Claire must too ask herself what price Mary Hawkins will be forced pay to procure the life of an ancestor she will never meet. With all the spell-binding drama of its spot-on performances and the stunning visual appeal of a beautifully recreated Versailles garden party, the latest episode from Outlander is yet another enchanting chapter in a fabulous series.