Outlander: Ep. 204 Review, La Dame Blanche Strikes Fear – and Love – in the Heart

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Phew. Ok, y’all feel better now? I know I do. There’s hope in my heart that we’re on a path to the characters we love. Yes, this is an adaptation – I really do know, understand and appreciate that – but there has to be some fidelity to the original material, or else it’s not an adaptation, it’s an original work. And, at least for tonight, we’re decidedly there.

But first, I’d like to say happy birthday to Sam, and tomorrow, happy birthday to Jamie!

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As a long-time fan of the book series, of course I always love seeing scenes in the show that are as close to the book as possible. But if you read my reviews regularly, you’ll know that I don’t generally have problems with this being an adaptation – I’ve enjoyed many of the changes that have been made, and it’s fun to see some of events in the book put in a different way. I have had trouble with the tone of the series at times, and have expressed my concern that frequently, the series doesn’t quite seem to “get” the basic nature of many of the characters. In this episode, we had a bit of everything – fidelity to the books, some fascinating changes that were completely within the tone of the original material, a return to an understanding of who Jamie and Claire are, together and separately, but yet still a few changes – just a very few – that could leave non-readers confused and faithful readers scratching their heads.

Claire’s dress in the first scene, during the chess match at Versailles – LOVED the turquoise stones around the bodice. And… Dalhousie? Lambert? What a delightful little exchange. I’ve decided to press for Dalhousie as the name of my first grandchild (which, Greg and Andy, better not happen any time soon). Or maybe… a dog.

Claire’s poisoning – you knew this was coming, didn’t you? And if you didn’t remember it, or haven’t read the books, surely the discussion last week with Maitre Raymond – that he HAS the poison in his shop, but SELLS the bitter cascara – was a major tipoff. I’m actually going to classify this in my good/bad column – the part I liked best was le Comte, slinking around, watching her be ill and everyone, especially Jamie, fall to pieces and rush her off. Was he the poisoner, as Jamie and Claire discuss later? If so, he doesn’t know, presumably, that what he actually had put in her drink was an emetic, not an actual poison. But he is very cool, taking it all in, chortling and mustache-twirling inside. The bad – not enough? Surely I don’t want to see poor Claire puke all over that beautiful floor, but I’m not sure we got a great sense of just how awful it really was.

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And it takes a crisis to create a resolution. Claire is ill, the baby could be in jeopardy – and Jamie steps up, tentatively at first. And Claire feels guilty about not having told him her big secret, so now that she has his undivided attention, and she thinks he’ll be too worried about her to create too much of a scene, she hangs her head and tells him something she’s sure will send him off the deep end – and she (and we) is extremely surprised by his reaction! Glee and joy! Ding dong, the witch isn’t dead – and that gives Jamie the joy of knowing that he now has regained some control, that he can take his revenge. “This is wonderful news! But why did you wait so long to tell me? Don’t you see, Sassenach, this has plagued me for months. Black Jack Randall died, and I missed it. And knowing I’ll never look on his face and see the blood flowing from his body, watch him breathe his last… but now… You’ve given me something to hold on to. Something to look forward to. And that is a gift. Thank you. Truly.”

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While it’s understandable, I’m more than a little dismayed that it takes the idea of being able to kill Black Jack himself to help Jamie in his recovery. Jamie certainly hasn’t shied away from killing when it’s been required – he killed one of the men involved in Claire’s attempted rape shortly after they were married, and he was willing and ready to kill Horrocks (although Ian did it for him).Obviously, what Black Jack did to him isn’t in any way forgivable, but to make this now Jamie’s driving force is not in character with the Jamie we know, a man who prays over the bodies of animals that he kills for food. But of course, Black Jack has proved himself to be lower than an animal.

I like to look for small moments in this series, whether book or show. This led to one of my favorite small moments, where Murtagh remarks on Jamie’s cheerfulness, and Claire, with a smug look, says that she told him about Black Jack. “I don’t know what you were worrying about,” she retorts. Love it.

And despite her concern last week that Jack had to stay alive for at least another year in order to father Frank’s ancestor (although why she thinks it will have to be a year, I don’t know), she doesn’t mention anything to Jamie at this point, only worrying that he shouldn’t rush off to Scotland or do something drastic. But it’s obviously on her mind, as she goes to Raymond’s shop – I adore anything having to do with Raymond. He’s concerned that the King’s men are watching him – “The King is not enamored of the mystical art. We must be wary not to invoke his ire.” All the bits and pieces in the shop! It would be quite fun to have a Jon Gary Steele walk-through of the shop and everything they’ve included, as the camera pans over much too quickly.

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Yeah, yeah, poison, nope, doesn’t know who he sold it to, she’s ok, on to other things. She’s worried about Frank and his “future.” And Raymond, practicing one of those mystical arts, tells her that she will see him again! Not at all the response she was expecting, was it! But we know she does, leading us to wonder, who exactly Raymond is. One thing he is, though, is Claire’s friend – he really ought to run a tab rather than keep giving her free stuff (the contraceptive for Suzette last week should be on it, she’s going to need more), as he hands her a necklace with that beautiful huge opal to detect poison. (That myth is discussed here.) “Some call it nature, some call it magic – I certainly charge more when I do,” he tells her.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Louise could have used a stone of some kind to warn her away, not from poison, but from an ill-advised lover! The pregnant Marquise searches out Claire’s help to rid her of the child, but Claire’s suggestion that she find some way to convince her husband that the child is his is somehow more scandalous to Louise than the predicament she’s in. Of course, her attitude – “He could have me arrested for adultery. Or even worse, banish me to a convent!” doesn’t really give you the idea that she’s interested in being a faithful wife, does it! “You mean, sleep with my husband!” she cries, affronted. “My lover would be furious.”  Interesting who’s more important, isn’t it!

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Claire really has helped Jamie by telling him about Black Jack. We’ve all been waiting for their reunion, we’ve all missed their closeness and love. But again, crisis creates resolution – and Jamie’s got himself into a heck of a crisis! I haven’t done the research on this (hubby draws the line at biting hard enough to leave a bruise), so I’m going to take Jamie at his (implied) word that the bite marks on his thighs were through this pants, but they sure don’t look like it, do they? “I don’t suppose a gently-reared young lady such as yourself would be familiar with the term soixante-neuf?”

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Of course, Claire doesn’t take kindly to the possibility that Jamie has, at worst, given into the lust admits he felt, or at best, used lustful thoughts toward a prostitute to finally propel him to her bed, but it’s more complicated than that. Claire has been patient, but she hasn’t really considered how destroyed he has been, how he’s felt like he’s barely survived during the past few months. As any survivor of an assault can probably tell you, physical wounds heal, but the mental and emotional wounds take so much more work, something Claire should have known from her battlefield experience. But she gives Jamie a chance to explain, and he can finally put into words how he’s been living since the attack. “I’ve tried for so long to find a way back to you, but to not see that bastard’s face every time I take you in my arms. But tonight, I started to feel like a man again.

There was a place inside me, a place I think everyone has, that they keep to themselves. A fortress. Where the most private part of you lives. Your soul. The part of you that made you yourself and not anyone else. But after Wentworth, my fortress had been blown apart.  the thing that had lived there was suddenly exposed, out in the open. Without shelter, without… That’s where I’ve been ever since, Claire. Naked. Alone. Trying to hide under a blade of grass.”

And before Claire can process this, or begin to understand, Jamie leaves her – and smart woman that she is, she’s desperate to help her man heal. Surely she’s felt something like this, ripped out of her own time, not through any fault of her own, torn from the man she had loved – how had she survived? By building something new. By finding love again, a stronger love. And so she goes to him, blesses him with her love, and brings them back together. And Jamie’s heart and soul opens, so that once again, they can come together. I know I’m not the only one who had tears in their eyes as Jamie tells her,

Remember I told you I was lost? I think perhaps you’ve built me a lean-to, at least. And a roof, to keep out the rain.”

This scene was perfect, including the thunder and the otherwise quiet house, as benediction and soul-deep healing touch them.

One of the things I’ve been reading in the past couple of weeks from fans is that they’re missing some of the book’s bits and pieces, and I think we’re getting some of those back – the Bonnie Prince, looking more like the Bedraggled Prince, stumbles into their window, fresh from his lover’s bed, with a – gasp, we know where he got it – monkey bite on his hand! Happy? Apparently, he must have tried to Touch the Monkey! Claire and Jamie realize just who the fickle woman is. And decide to use it against him. Hey, all’s fair in love and war! “Does this make us bad people?” Claire asks when they decide to expose the pregnancy to Charles publicly in hopes that he’ll disgrace himself in front of people – i.e., the Duke of Sandringham – who would support him. That’s a good plan.

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But of course, the best-laid plans… we now know where that scene in the opening credits of the pin being hammered into someone’s leg came from. On the afternoon of the dinner party, Claire rushes off to deal with an emergency at the hospital, accompanied by Fergus and Murtagh, who have a delightful small moment of their own! Mary Hawkins has a boyfriend! as Fergus so cleverly points out, and Murtagh’s Suzette may have a couple of them (boo for her).

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A wheel on their carriage needs to be repaired, meaning that Claire and Mary must walk if they’re to get back for the party. Mary tells Claire about her beau, who happens (no surprise) to be Alex Randall – but Mary is affianced to Warty Guy! She may have been listening to Louise a touch too much.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Outlander Season 2 2016

The dinner party has begun; Jamie has greeted the guests, worried about Claire (another small moment – Fergus telling Jamie, “There is a problem with the carriage; there will be lateness involved”).

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The Duke of Sandringham has brought a surprise with him – Le Comte, smiling smugly. The Prince is introduced to the Duke. Louise and her husband Jules arrive, and Louise’s hand is accosted by the Prince, who, as Jame and Claire hoped, is completely taken aback by her arrival with the husband.

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The elaborate bows and beautiful clothes, not just on the women, but the men as well (see Terry Dresbach’s posts on her blog about costuming Jamie, part 1 and  part 2), make me wish I could attend a dinner like this, although I hate to get dressed up, and probably couldn’t curtsy without falling on my face. Mary’s uncle and Viscount Warty also arrive.

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So Claire and Mary arrive safely back at home – no, nothing is ever that easy, is it! They’re attacked, Murtagh is knocked unconscious, and Mary is raped – with the attacker hollering in delight to find a virgin. But his horrifying delight turns to fear as another one of the attackers recognizes Claire as La Dame Blanche – where did this come from? Which leads us to a puzzle – if you’ve had a keen eye, you may have noted that the hand of the attacker that Claire fights off bears a portwine birthmark – and so does the hand of the man who pulling the pin out of their carriage wheel in the opening credits! (Look carefully at the photo below – on the left is the hand of the man at the carriage wheel during the opening credits, with the birthmark directly under the R in Ronald, and the hand as Claire sees it when she fights him off.) Was the carriage breakdown a setup to force the women into a dangerous situation? So that means that the attackers knew who they were planning to go after? And they didn’t recognize Claire as this La Dame Blanche beforehand? Although it’s possible that the wheel issue was “discovered” after Claire and Mary entered the hospital, and the men had been hired by someone who just told them where to find their victims, not who they were. And who is the intended target? Claire? And was Mary just a bonus for the depraved criminals?

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Mary is put to bed under the watchful eye of Alex Randall, who has declared his love out in the courtyard (not everybody is so loving – Murtagh shrugs off Suzette’s concerned, and possibly unfaithful, hand). Claire tries to keep her cool, insisting that the dinner party must go on, partly to protect Mary’s reputation, and partly because they have a bigger goal in mind than finding the attackers, which is what Jamie wants to run off and do.

I loved, loved, loved the entire dinner scene. Mark me, when Jamie “outs” Louise’s pregnancy, I thought Charles would choke on his wine. But he – barely – controls himself, and tells Jules that he is “indeed, a man in the dark,” unaware of his wife’s unfaithfulness. The Duke was smarmy, over the top, and completely captivating.

Outlander Season 2 2016

And Le Comtesse comments on the lovely stone Claire is wearing, Raymond’s poison detector – which Le Comte explains to the guests. I love the way he speaks so softly, and never overtly offers any kind of threat – but you just know you can’t trust him (which is a complete contrast to the actor, Stanley Weber – the Facebook video Q&A aired this week made me question whether I’d be able to see him as a villain again, since he was so adorable and charming, but he he, oh, he’s a villain for sure), and Claire and Jamie both suspect him of involvement in the attack. Claire can hold her own, though – after he tells the table about the stone, he turns to her and suggests that if she mistrusts her own home’s cooking so much, maybe they should all wear stones – to which she replies, “Perhaps… YOU should.” Oooh, Claire!

Outlander Season 2 2016

And just for good measure, because, well, Le Comte… (ignore Vicomte Warty, there being jealous of Le Comte’s sex appeal)

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I wasn’t crazy about the fight scene that ensues when Mary wakes up hysterical, frightened by the solicitous Alex, who chases after her and is caught in a compromising position. It seemed very contrived to me, when Murtagh takes an uncharacteristic beat before getting involved, and particularly when Claire tosses the curtain tiebacks to Jamie. There was something… choreographed (of course it is, but a good fight scene shouldn’t look that way) about the entire thing. Jamie seemed to be enjoying it, when what it really meant was that all his plans were unravelling. In an excellent, well-written and directed episode, this one scene nearly unravelled my excitement.

But this was really the only blot in a tremendous episode. Along with Jamie and Claire, I feel hopeful that their relationship, and our show, is continuing to get over some of the early season bumps. What will the fallout be from the attack? How did La Dame Blanche come to be? Who ordered the attack, if it wasn’t random, and why is Le Comte so darn sexy? But more importantly, have Claire and Jamie’s plot to derail the Prince’s plans been derailed itself? I’m eagerly awaiting next week’s episode!

What Emmy categories does Starz suggest Outlander should be nominated in?

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Erin Conrad