The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
(The best laid schemes of Mice and Men
oft go awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
Robert Burns, To A Mouse, 1785
And that they did, leaving grief and pain in this episode. Not just for Jamie and Claire, but for everyone they touched. Jamie’s been arrested, and it looks like Claire is losing their child. Le Comte has lost money, and presumably, status; and Charles Stuart has, at least for now, lost position and face. (Murtagh’s only lost his fight with lace. He’ll get over it.) And Fergus! Can’t forget young Fergus – we don’t yet know what he’s lost, but it wasn’t looking good.
After a night of reflection, Jamie’s apparently become resolved to giving into Claire’s demand that he wait to kill Black Jack. Murtagh isn’t, though, and acts like a child denied a birthday present. “Trust I’ve a sound reason,” Jamie tells him. And Murtagh stalks out, snapping at Magnus the butler, who mutters, “too damn bad” (but of course in French). Is anyone else surprised at the familiarity of the servants toward the householders? I’m not even going to get into the wisdom of discussing their plans to derail Prince Charles in front of the servants – but both Magnus and Suzette don’t seem to behave appropriately toward their (temporary) employers. Do they behave this way toward Jared? And sleeping with Murtagh is one thing, but acting so outwardly intimate toward him in front of Jamie and Claire when she’s helping dress him as a highwayman? Even Claire was uncomfortable at her “we’ll have to get you undressed as quickly as possible.” Hierarchy, people! There was a definite class structure in place during that time, and these notes are a little jarring to an otherwise beautifully historically accurate show.
But speaking of jarring – and not at all in the same way – M. Forez’s discussion of the methods of execution was excellent, and stomach-turning. Claire wasn’t the only pale one after his “hideous conversation,” his thinly-veiled hint to her that perhaps a friend was in mortal danger. In the book, this conversation was used to hint to Jamie that his efforts to stop the Jacobites could be seen as treason, and this was the punishment for traitors – there’s not really a hint of that here, but it’s certainly effective in getting across his warning to Raymond! And another very subtle hint about Raymond and who he really is – “We’ll meet again, Madonna, in this life – or another.”
Some Jamie and Claire quiet time – now that he’s gotten past the “Do not touch me” phase, it’s lovely to see them being loving to each other. And I’m glad he reminded her that he’s saved her as often as he’s saved him – this is a really disaster-prone couple. He definitely saved her life at the Cranesmuir witch trial, and I don’t think anyone thinks she really would have made it out alive after at least one of those Black Jack encounters. But either she doesn’t see it that way, or wonders why he’s bringing up the point – “Even?!?” she repeats. Sure, you shouldn’t be keeping score in a relationship, but she started it with “you owe me a life.” If he didn’t feel a disastrous tide building, he wouldn’t care at all for Frank’s life. “I owe Frank nothing. You had a free choice between us – and you chose me. The fact you did shouldn’t entitle him to any particular consideration,” he says.
But his resolution isn’t from an acceptance of her tally – he’s really the bigger man in this marriage, wanting her to have a safe place to go when he believes their efforts to stop Prince Charles will ultimately fail. “We may find ourselves staring into the abyss at the bottom of Culloden Moor,” he fears, and he knows Claire – she wouldn’t leave him at the bottom, choosing to stay and face the abyss together – but he can’t even consider that. Knowing Claire and their child will be safe and have a home to go to – this is the essence of Jamie, the protector, the man so completely in love that knowing that she will be safe is more important than keeping her at his side. This may be the moment that TV Jamie catches up with book Jamie, finally facing rather than running from the effects of Black Jack’s brutality, putting aside his own needs and shouldering the responsibilities that come with being a natural leader, a husband, a father, a man.
I really like the “smallpox testing” scene, Jamie’s little chokes of laughter mixed with pain, Fergus acting like the child he is! This is a serious business they’re after – and if it fails, not only could Charles succeed, but Jamie could be killed. But blech, how many of you would be willing to be the guinea pig? (I sure hope it’s not M. Forez’ hangman’s grease that Claire is putting on Jamie’s blisters…) And the time has now come, they decide, to tell Murtagh everything – I wasn’t too surprised at the punch Murtagh gave him for holding out, and obviously, neither was Jamie! No hard feelings. I’d like to know, though, did Murtagh have – and ask – the same kinds of questions for Claire that Jamie did? What did he want to know about the world 200 years from now? Or being a very different kind of man than Jamie – “I ken I’m a simple man,” he says at one point – is it enough that he believes she is from the future, and that knowledge is overwhelming enough that, at least for now, there aren’t any questions? (I know they wouldn’t have filmed anything like this – they already did this kind of a scene, and there would be no point to it in this context, but it would be interesting to be a fly on the wall in this fictional drawing room!)
Off go Jamie and Fergus on a several days’ gallop and back. This episode had several great lines, and one of my favorites came here as Jamie returns to Claire – “If anyone can deliver pestilence and disease, it’s us,” Jamie assures her. But this sweet scene, of Jamie feeling his unborn child move, and truly enjoying, if only for a moment, his impending fatherhood, was one of those wonderful small moments that Outlander does so well. “Wee ‘un, it’s your father,” he coos to the swelling belly. “I can’t wait to meet you.” On my second watch of the episode, this scene had me in tears, knowing what was coming. How about you? I was a little surprised, however, that Jamie asked Claire if it was alright to make love with her pregnant – surely this couldn’t be the first time since they’ve reconnected? It felt a little forced to have him ask, and a little false.
So this scheme has “gang agley,” and Le Comte is able to keep enough of a lid on the disaster – “no one should speculate as the contagion of this malady,” the Prince tells them, and there has to be a quickly-devised part 2 – move the wine before the scrupulous harbormaster can destroy it, but actually hijack it and sell it for a private profit. If you think Le Comte is mad now… (And this is where the overly familiar Suzette came in.) I was kind of worried for Murtagh there with the pointed gun showdown – “Descendez!” “Jamais!” (nice that I had seven years of French in school 40 years ago…) But they get away!
And…. Le Comte blows a gasket. And Prince Charlie has a meltdown. Historical note: why Poland? Prince Charles’ mother was a noblewoman from Poland, Maria Clementina Sobieska, and presumably he had been there many times – I’m sure after the glitter of the Papal Court in Rome and the French court, Poland would be a backwater. (And how historically accurate is Diana! Prince Charles really did have a child with Louise de la Tour, Marquise de Rohan – a son named Charles Godefroi Sofie Jules Marie de Rohan!)
While waiting for Jamie to return, Claire tries to take her mind off his danger. She joins the gossip girls, but can’t stomach their selfish ways, and rails at them to be more caring towards the poor and unfortunate. She goes to L’Hopital, where Mother Hildegarde starts to see signs that the pregnancy is in trouble – she shouldn’t be bleeding at this point.
Jamie has come and gone, again to rescue the Prince from his own follies. Nobody pays any attention to him when he tells them to “stay put!”, and it never turns out well. Whose room could Fergus have wandered into, looking for small items to pocket (and this small item is oil of lavender – hmmm, sinister, put that down)?
And finally, Claire heads home, after what must have been a restless night trying to deal with fears for her child and her husband, and arrives to find that he’s gone to duel, after all. All she can think is that he’s broken his promise, and if possible, she must stop him. But it’s likely there’s another reason, one which Jamie felt couldn’t pass without challenge; otherwise, he would never have broken his oath to her. Magnus calls for the carriage and goes with her to the Bois de Boulogne, skidding across the cobblestones in their haste.
How heartbreaking was that final scene! Jamie and Randall locked in combat, Claire doubled over, afraid to call out for fear she would distract Jamie and allow Randall to kill him, the final coup de grace, the gendarmes rushing out to arrest the illegal duelists – and Claire, overcome with pain and fear, betrayal and loss – I don’t often cry for TV or film (more often for scenes in books, though), and I was in tears like I haven’t been yet for this show. “Bad things happen when we’re apart,” she told Jamie earlier in this episode. “Yes, but we always find our way back to each other, he answers. I can only hope it’s quick.
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